By Grace Schuringa
New York City, New York
The Parental Rights in Education bill recently passed in Florida, and effective July 1st 2022, reserves the right for parents to educate their children on gender issues from kindergarten through third grade. Companies have spoken out against the law. For example, Walt Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, expressed his disapproval, condemning the bill to the catchy slogan ‘Don’t Say Gay’ after it was signed by Governor DeSantis. In speaking out against the bill he pledges that the whole of Disney is “committed to supporting the national and state organizations” in repealing the recently passed law.
A divide within the company occurred between those reluctant to denounce the stance taken by Disney and urged the company to “stay neutral on hot-button issues,” and those supporting Disney. Gary Lucia, a gay employee at Walt Disney, chastised the company claiming that he “does not agree with the Disney LGBTQ+ and groups that purport to speak on (his) behalf.” He goes on to point out that the bill does not mention the word ‘gay’ once, but instead characterizes the “misleading nickname” ‘Don’t Say Gay’ as a “Trojan Horse.” He justifies the nickname as “done intentionally” in a manner in which it is used as “clickbait” on grounds for an uprising because “those fighting the bill knew any attack on gay people would be met with outrage.” In this scheme he claims that “the public was being played, and gay people were being used as pawns.”
After further pressure from the LGBTQ+ community, Chapek offered an apology for failing to be a “stronger ally” asserting that “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds” and often divide the public further. In an attempt to rebuild Disney’s controversial image, the company temporarily stopped all political donations in Florida and donated $5 million to LGBTQ+ rights groups.
Last year, under pressure from activist groups, Delta and Coca Cola, headquartered in Atlanta, criticized a voting rights bill passed in Georgia. Among other provisions it required a photo I.D. in order to vote. Both companies expressed their clear opposition in press releases, and six days after the law was passed, Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta stated that the law “does not match with Delta’s values.” CEO of Coca Cola, James Quincey, later came out on CNBC saying: “Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal, this legislation is unacceptable.” Despite their efforts to publicly criticize the legislation, activists threatened to boycott Delta along with other Atlanta-based corporations for “not doing enough.”
The criticism of the companies did not stop there. Marco Rubio, a Florida Senator, denounced both Delta and Coca-Cola as “woke corporate hypocrites.” Stephen Miller furthered this claim by explaining that “unelected, multinational corporations are now openly attacking sovereign U.S. states & the right of their citizens to secure their own elections. This is a corporate ambush on Democracy.” Major League Baseball (MLB) also entered into the political controversy. They, too, criticized the voting rights bill and relocated the all star game from Atlanta to Denver. This hurt a number of black owned businesses and caused the loss of over $100 million. As it turns out Colorado’s voting rights laws are more restrictive than Georgia’s.
These various examples of corporate involvement in controversial topics could be seen as futile attempts to succumb to a political agenda, and more severely as an example of how “big companies wade into partisan politics, where any support for the left draws the ire of the right, and vice versa,” according to the New York Times.