Walt Disney Co.
heir Charlee Disney publicly came out as transgender in a recent interview, and said they wished they could have done more to advocate against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill.
The bill, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or in a way “that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate,” and allows parents to sue school districts over perceived violations. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill into law in March.
The policy has drawn intense scrutiny from people across the U.S. who argue it marginalizes LGBTQ+ people, and from Florida teachers and parents who believe the law is vaguely worded and could impact how families are discussed and history lessons are taught.
Charlee Disney, a 30-year-old high school science teacher who uses they/them pronouns, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published this past weekend that they hadn’t done enough to lobby against the bill.
“I feel like I don’t do very much to help,” they said. “I don’t call senators or take action. I felt like I could be doing more.”
Charlee Disney said they came out as trans four years ago. Charlee’s great-grandfather was Roy O. Disney, the older brother of Walt Disney; the two co-founded the company together.
“I had very few openly gay role models,” Charlee Disney said. “And I certainly didn’t have any trans or nonbinary role models. I didn’t see myself reflected in anyone, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.”
The Disney family announced it would donate up to $500,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, one of the country’s biggest LGBTQ advocacy groups, according to Bloomberg.
Many people, including Disney employees, criticized Disney CEO Bob Chapek for not making a statement condemning the bill prior to its passing. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry,” Chapek said as part of a statement in March.
Disney employs 70,000 people in Florida and is an active political donor. The company donated $4.8 million to Florida candidates in the 2020 elections.
The Disney company released a statement denouncing the bill after it passed, prompting DeSantis to say that the company had “crossed a line.”