Disney CEO, responding to LGBTQ employees, says company's stories promote inclusion

2 minute read

Security officers staff the entrance at the Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Barbara Liston

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March 7 (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) Chief Executive Bob Chapek said on Monday in response to calls that the company take a public stand against a Florida bill that would prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity that Disney's stories "are our corporate statements" in support of a diverse, inclusive world.

In a memo to Disney staff, Chapek wrote that he met Friday with a group of Disney's LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss the legislation and its potential impact on their communities. He expressed the leadership team's support for Disney's employees and their families and the company's commitment to inclusion -- though Disney would not issue a statement.

"As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds," Chapek wrote. "Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change."

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Disney's Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is the company's largest theme park. Its sprawling businesses also include movie studios, broadcast and cable television networks, streaming services, cruise lines and retail products.

Florida’s House of Representatives approved a Republican-backed bill last month that Democrats denounced as being anti-LGBTQ. The legislation, referred to by opponents as the “don’t say gay” bill, has stirred national controversy as the debate over what schools should teach children about race and gender has grown increasingly partisan.

Critics, including Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of company co-founder Roy O. Disney, tweeted Sunday that she is "deeply angered by Disney thinking it can look the other way for this hateful 'Don't Say Gay' bill." She also took issue with Disney's political contributions to the legislators who drafted the bill.

Chapek wrote that Disney has not made political contributions "based on this issue," and has supported Republican and Democratic legislators who have taken positions on both sides of the measure. He said the company's new chief corporate affairs officer, Geoff Morrell, will reassess the company's advocacy strategies -- including political giving.

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Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler

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