The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards took the spotlight to focus on a glaring response to what they believe was a public gaffe by The Walt Disney Company. Many thought that the mega-mouse giant was silent for too long about what they are calling Florida’s “Don’t say gay” law.
The CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, used her platform at the Los Angelos awards show to give a warning to the rest of Hollywood about what might happen if they ignore the LGBT community.
“Don’t wait until you’re in the hot seat. There’s no more time to sit on the sidelines. We need Hollywood on the front lines, fighting for our rights and telling our stories,” Ellis said at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
That warning is certainly enough to catch the conservative voter’s attention. But it gets much worse. Ellis went even further and called on the powers to be in Hollywood “to take meaningful action and will soon convene the biggest brands, agencies, studios, and streamers together with two goals: one, to commit to improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ images, especially in kids and family programming. And, two, to speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation in favor of rights like the Equality Act.”
The GLAAD CEO was there to give awards to country crossover star Kacey Musgraves and Golden Globe winner Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. But before she recognized the honorees, she talked about the progress that has been made politically in recent months.
Ellis referenced the Democratic push for an end to bans on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. She mentioned the work done with Tik Tok to protect queer teens. And they recognized that there were 200 queer actors who RSVP’d to walk the show’s red carpet.
Then Ellis began lashing out at Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida. She said that on March 8th the Florida Senate passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and it was signed into law this week. And on the same day, the South Dakota Senate passed a bill banning the discussion of “divisive concepts” like race and sex in college courses; the Idaho House passed a bill that would send librarians to jail if they let minors check out books with LGBTQ topics, and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied an appeal barring g a religious organization from offering “conversion therapy.”
“This all happened not in one month, not in one week, but all in one day,” she concluded. She then fired a missile: “I expect every industry executive in this room to join us. GLAAD will give you the playbook. But we won’t give you a pass.”
Employees from Disney were listening. They staged a walkout to protest Disney’s so-called “tepid” response to the bill from the Florida Senate. This bill aims simply to restrict discussion of gender and sexuality in schools from Kindergarten to 3rd grade. Hundreds of employees were seen marching out of the company’s headquarters in Burbank, CA, according to CNBC. In an open letter from Disney’s employees, they wrote: “The recent statements by The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) leadership regarding the Florida legislature’s recent ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation.”
It went further stating that Disney leadership still does not understand the impact of the bill on cast members in the state of Florida and the LGBTQIA+ community in the company and beyond…that should probably be “infinity and beyond.”
This tension was compounded when leaked videos were released from a Disney all-hands meeting. They talked about their goals for children’s content and Disney Executive Producer Latoya Raveneau referred to her “not-at-all-secret gay agenda.”
Opposition to Florida’s new law is becoming fierce, let’s hope that the governor doesn’t back down to the pressure.