Human Rights Campaign Accepts Disney Donation, Months After Rejecting It

The Human Rights Campaign has agreed to accept a contribution from the Walt Disney Co., months after rejecting it at the height of the “Don’t Say Gay” controversy.

The move comes as Disney continues to try to heal the damage done by its response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which restricts classroom instruction on LGBTQ identity.

Disney initially declined to take a public position on the measure, leading to a major backlash among its employees. As the furor mounted, CEO Bob Chapek announced that the company would oppose the law and make a $5 million donation to HRC and other gay rights organizations. But HRC rejected the money, saying it first wanted to see the company “build on their public commitment” by working closely with LGBTQ organizations.

In a statement on Friday, HRC spokeswoman Elizabeth Bibi said the organization had agreed to accept the donation after months of discussions with the company. She also praised Disney for having “stood firm” in its support of the LGBTQ community.

“Over the last several months, we have been having very productive conversations with Disney about the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ laws and policies and what they can do to help our community — specifically, what they can do to make the world safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ+ people, especially the youth and families currently under political attack,” Bibi said in a statement. “Following their shareholder meeting in March, Disney was the only major company in Florida or the entertainment industry to specifically call for a repeal of the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law. Disney has stood firm in their commitments to our community, and the company has taken real action to meet their employees’ needs and lean into their values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re grateful for Disney’s meaningful and ongoing engagement around the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ laws and policies, which builds on the company’s many years of strong support for the LGBTQ+ community, and are thankful to them for their support of HRC’s work.”

The Parental Rights in Education law — known to its critics as “Don’t Say Gay” — forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and requires that instruction in later grades be “age appropriate.” Parents are also empowered to sue over alleged violations.

After Disney announced it would work to repeal the law, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure abolishing the company’s special tax district in Orlando, and saying he would “not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state.”

The status of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which encompasses four theme parks and covers nearly 40 square miles, remains up in the air. Disney has not commented about the Reedy Creek legislation, which is set to take effect in June 2023.

Disney also declined to comment on HRC’s announcement.

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