ICYMI: Employees at Disney, ESPN, Pixar Speak Out in Support of LGBTQ+ Community, Plan Staff Walk Out

by Elizabeth Bibi

Disney Employees Hold Staff Walk Out and Demand Meaningful Action on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” Bill

Today, LGBTQ+ employees and their allies at the Walt Disney Company are organizing a staff walk out to call for more meaningful action to stop Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill. The walkout, an example of employees demanding more from their leaders, comes as employees at two Disney-owned entities recently took commendable actions in support of the LGTBQ+ community. During ESPN's coverage of the women's tournament on Sunday, announcers Courtney Lyle and Carolyn Peck observed a moment of silence to express their opposition to Florida's “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, as well as anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in states across the country. And Pixar has restored a same-sex kiss in the upcoming feature film “Light Year,” after it had previously been removed.

Employees’ public outcry, alongside the Human Rights Campaign’s announcement rejecting Disney’s donation until they take meaningful action, led to CEO Bob Chapek apologizing to his employees and committing to suspend all political giving in Florida. HRC has been in touch with Chapek and other leaders at Disney in recent days about how Disney can take meaningful action to support its employees and speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Florida and in states across the country. HRC is currently tracking about 130 pieces of anti-transgender legislation in statehouses across the country; of those, 67 are anti-trans sports bans.

“We stand in solidarity with the brave LGBTQ+ employees at Disney and their allies who are calling for more from their leadership,” said Human Rights Campaign Interim President Joni Madison. “These employees know that corporations like Disney have a real role to play in combating discriminatory legislation – not only the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill in Florida, but also the attacks on transgender youth we’re seeing in states like Texas and Alabama. We are grateful to the brave employees who understand the power of their voices to make real change, and whose actions have already generated progress. We are cheering you on.”

LGBTQ+ kids have real threats and obstacles to overcome. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have been targets of bullying, harassment, or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement.

A Campaign of Hate Cascading Across the Country

The “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill arrives at a time when statewide officials in Texas have tried to criminalize transition care for minors, and lawmakers in Alabama are on the verge of passing legislation to do so as well. Iowa recently became the first state in the country that had passed statewide non-discrimination protections that include LGBTQ+ people to reverse course by prohibiting transgender women and girls from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. And in South Dakota, Gov. Noem proclaimed that it “makes me sad” to hear about high rates of depression among LGBTQ+ people in her state – just days after she signed the first anti-trans bill of 2022 into law.

While the sponsors of these pieces of legislation make disingenuous claims about what their bills will do, their supporters are revealing their true intentions. Advisers and staffers for Republican governors in Florida, Texas and South Dakota, plus a bill sponsor in Iowa, have made public comments this year laying bare that these bills are more about prejudice against transgender people than any real policy position.

Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation

More than 150 major U.S. corporations have spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, and Paypal have objected to these type of bills. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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