Disney’s Response to “Don’t Say Gay” Bill is Disappointing


Disney must learn from their response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The passage of the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida is a tragedy. Restricting the education of LGBTQ+ topics in public schools is damaging to the LGBTQ+ community and undermines the support that young people struggling with their identity desperately need. What makes this even more of a tragedy is the absence of decisive action from those who could have done something to help prevent the passage of the bill. One such entity is the Walt Disney Company. Disney may have come out against the bill publicly, but they responded far too late to make any real change in the trajectory of the bill. 

Corporations, especially ones who are catered towards children, have a vested interest in bills beyond taxes and corporate interests in the government. Remaining neutral and impartial ultimately rendered Disney’s response ineffective and ensured the passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

Disney is one of the most powerful companies in Florida. They control a large amount of the tourism industry and employ a large number of Floridians. They also employ 38 lobbyists to advocate for their economic and political interests. Their political influence and donations have given them a unique position in Florida politics to mold bills to accommodate them and their interests. Yet, when the “Don’t Say Gay” bill was introduced to the Florida House floor in January, Disney was silent. 

There is no record of Disney lobbying on the bill as it went through the legislative process, even though Disney advocated for other bills. The gut reaction from employees and fans of Disney was that the bill and the effects it would have on the LGBTQ+ community were not a priority for the corporation.

As the bill came closer to being passed, more critics continued to call out Disney for their lack of action. Disney employees began to protest, urging Disney to do better and speak out against the bill. The former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, spoke out against the bill and said that it seemed wrong and potentially harmful to kids. Yet, Disney continued to remain quiet until the bill was in its final stages of approval. However, by that point, it was too late for anything to be effective. Disney was ultimately unable to halt the passage of legislation.

The inability to stop the bill’s passage is a blow for Disney, a company that has much political influence in Florida politics and has a history of handling LGBTQ+ issues relatively well.

The reason their strategy was ultimately ineffective wasn’t because Disney isn’t a powerful political force, but because, by the time they got involved, it was in the hands of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. He had long advocated for the bill, despite growing criticism, and was always unlikely to change his position, even if Disney personally lobbied him. Also, DeSantis and other conservatives have changed their stance on corporations’ involvement and lobbying, believing that companies should only be involved in economic interests. 

However, Disney could have prevented this by simply speaking out and lobbying against the bill when it was introduced.

It may not have been the smartest decision for Disney to come out and openly oppose the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The choice to go against the legislation and review which politicians they are choosing to fund may isolate Republican lawmakers in Florida, many of whom have taken a pleasure in seeing Disney ultimately fail to stop the passage of the bill.

Speaking out against the consequences of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and defending the LGBTQ+ youth is more important than politics or money. It may not have been effective and they may not have done it soon enough, but Disney’s choice to speak out was the right idea. They just need to continue to speak out and oppose harmful legislation in Florida. 

It’s one thing to speak out and it’s another to act. Disney needs to learn from the mistakes they made in their response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and do better. They need to oppose legislation that hurts the LGBTQ+ community and young children in Florida. They need to continue to promote an inclusive environment, where everyone regardless of their identity or sexuality is welcome in their films, television shows and theme parks. 

Actions speak louder than words. Disney needs to continue to speak out, but they need to back up their words with actions.

Samantha Scott, FCRH ’24, is an international political economy major from Columbus, Ohio.