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Disney employees across the US participate in walkout over bill dubbed 'Don't Say Gay' by critics

The protest is in response to the theme park giant's slow response in publicly criticizing the legislation.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The same day Disney published a statement "in solidarity" with the LGBTQIA+ community, employees across the U.S. are participating in a "full scale" walkout.

Tuesday's efforts were the latest in a string of Disney employees participating in walkouts since March 14 to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response in publicly criticizing Florida's controversial "Parental Rights in Education" bill. 

The legislation, yet to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, limits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Critics have dubbed the legislation “Don’t Say Gay” because it bars educators from teaching LGBTQ-related topics within a curriculum to students in kindergarten through third grade.

Statements by Disney leadership over the Florida legislation “have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation," the group behind the "Disney Do Better" walkout said.

"As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position. We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry," the group continued.

The following statement is the latest from Disney on the controversial bill: 

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Images and videos have begun to be posted to social media showing employees of The Walt Disney Co. participating in the "full scale" walkout movement. 

One Twitter user, said to be employed by Disney, posted a photo sitting outside his house in solidarity with the movement while working from home.

"A walkout from @Disney (my employer) is taking place today in opposition to corporate donations to politicians pushing discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” bills. I’m WFH but sitting outside my house in solidarity. Be better @Disney," Riley D. Champine wrote.

Twitter user Kaden Westbrook tweeted, "today I’m participating in a walkout alongside my fellow lgbtq+ Disney colleagues and allies. the company has taken steps to apologize, but we need action NOW, not after a year of review. to learn more visit @DisneyWalkout"

Over on the west coast, CNBC field producer Steve Desaulniers posted a video of "Hundreds of Disney employees walking out at company HQ in Burbank."

A stream of people walking down the street while chanting "say gay" and clapping could be seen in the 20-second clip.

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PFLAG National and Human Rights Campaign President Joni Madison have also spoken out in support of those choosing to participate in the walkout. 

"Disney can and should use its influence to be an ally and show up for human rights for Floridians, its employees and their families," PFLAG National wrote, in part.

The Human Rights Campaign has also refused a donation from The Walt Disney Co. until it builds "on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals...don't become dangerous laws." 

Benjamin Siemon, a Disney LGBTQ animator, has been vocal on Twitter about the way Disney has handled its response to the legislation. Tuesday was no different. 

"We've heard apologies which is important but as Disney employees we have not heard any specific policies that help alleviate our worries that the company is just temporarily placating its LGBQT+ employees & only pausing political donations until the media stops paying attention," he tweeted. 

According to a Disney official, there had been no interruptions in any operations as of Tuesday midday. Disney employed 190,000 workers last October, with roughly three-quarters working in its theme parks division.

Union leaders for the tens of thousands of unionized workers at Disney theme parks in Florida and California said they've seen no walkout momentum among their members, advising them not to do so because it would defy contractual obligations. Organizers said they expected some participation from production, marketing, IT and other non-unionized jobs.

A half-dozen Disney workers gathered Tuesday morning at an LGBTQ center near downtown Orlando to write letters in support of queer students. “You’re Amazing. You Matter and We Care” and “It Gets Better,” the letters read, next to a drawing of a rainbow.

“We are creators, and we felt that we could be creative and productive and write letters of encouragement to LGBTQ youth,” said Gabe, a Walt Disney World product development manager who didn’t want his last name used for fear of having his privacy invaded.

So far, protests against the bill have not stopped it from moving forward through the legislative process. On March 10, in a 2:20 minute video obtained by Fox News, DeSantis doubled down to a group of supporters that pressure from "woke" corporations has "zero" chance of having him "back down."

RELATED: Disney CEO Bob Chapek speaks out against Florida bill dubbed 'Don't Say Gay' by critics

RELATED: Disney vs. DeSantis: A timeline of Florida's bill dubbed 'Don't Say Gay' by critics

The governor and Chapek have seemingly become synonymous with discussion over the bill during the past two weeks. 

In the wake of the backlash, the CEO has taken a public stance on the bill, sharing during a March 9 shareholder meeting he called DeSantis to express "disappointment" and "concern" with the bill.

“The governor heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address them,” Chapek said at the time.

Soon after, The Walt Disney Co. announced it would be pausing political donations in the Sunshine State. The stoppage on Florida-based political donations was said to be in place as Disney reworked its current system into one that "will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values." 

In the same announcement, Chapek also apologized to employees for the way things unfolded.

"It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights," Chapek's letter read. "You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry."

DeSantis has not yet signed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill but indicated Tuesday he will sign it "relatively soon." 


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