Human Rights Campaign rejects Disney donation after ‘Don't Say Gay’ controversy

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LGBTQ+ charity Human Rights Campaign has announced that it will not be taking any donations from The Walt Disney Company. The charity has vehemently rejected involvement with the media empire over its stance on Florida's Don't Say Gay bill.

Human Rights Campaign shuts down Disney

Announced in a statement, the Human Rights Campaign has turned down help from The Walt Disney Company. As the largest American civil rights organisation — helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people — the organisation’s rejection of Disney is a huge deal.

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The charity’s rejection comes after the passing of Florida’s House Bill 1557, the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill”. This legislation forbids teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ issues or even mentioning LGBTQ+ people. For example, if a literature teacher is discussing Dorian Gray, they would not be able to touch on Oscar Wilde's homosexuality.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek was criticised for not speaking up against the bill before its passing. Additionally, after the bill passed, Chapek announced Disney’s plans to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and funding to LGBTQ+ organisations.

The Human Rights Campaign explained that they will not take money from the company until it acts upon its commitment to LGBTQ+ people. They said:

“Businesses have had and continue to have a major impact in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from marriage equality to the defeat of House Bill 2 in North Carolina and beyond. While Disney took a regrettable stance by choosing to stay silent amid political attacks against LGBTQ+ families in Florida — including hardworking families employed by Disney — today they took a step in the right direction. But it was merely the first step.

“HRC encourages Disney, and all employers, to continue to fight for their employees – many of whom bravely spoke out to say their CEO’s silence was unacceptable – and the LGBTQ+ community by working with us and state and local LGBTQ+ groups to ensure these dangerous anti-equality proposals that harm LGBTQ+ families and kids have no place in Florida.”

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The Disney LGBTQ problem

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Disney has long been criticised for its poor handling of LGBTQ+ issues, especially the inclusion of queer characters. As an entertainment company, Disney’s beliefs are expected to be shown through film. And it has been.

Take, for example, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a remake that was touted as having the company's first gay character… in 2017. This character was quickly criticised for having little to no substance, and never discussing the character’s queerness.

This has continued, with many Disney projects announcing queer characters without substance, mostly pushing them into the background. For example, Avengers: Endgame’s gay character gets one line and The Rise of Skywalker’s hyped-up queer moment is a two-second kiss before cutting to a giant slug.

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Disney is getting a bit better at this. In Marvel’s Eternals, one character — Phastos — is a gay character with a family, a huge moment for gay representation. The company is far from perfect; Disney continually announces queer characters, exciting queer people with characters that end up being on screen for mere seconds.