When evangelical Rev. Franklin Graham called for a boycott of LGBT-friendly businesses last week, he said he'd move his ministry’s millions from Wells Fargo to another bank, after Wells Fargo ran an ad featuring a gay couple.
Only the bank the Billy Graham Evangelical Association selected – BB&T– is also LGBT-friendly, and a financial sponsor of Miami Beach Gay Pride. During one event celebrating couples who have been together for more than a decade, the bank even hosted a surprise gay wedding.
“The Miami Beach Gay Pride organization is extremely proud of our long-standing partnership with BB&T bank and the significant financial support they have provided over that past few years,” a spokesman for the Pride group told CNBC. "The surprise wedding that took place at their South Beach branch during a Legacy Couple fundraiser was one of the most heartwarming moments during our Pride season this year.”
The bank said they don't take formal positions on social issues, but affirmed their commitment to diversity.
“Our mission is to help our clients achieve economic success and financial security regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. As a company and a culture, BB&T embraces diversity and inclusion for our associates and in all aspects of our business,” they said in a statement to CNBC.
In a statement emailed to msnbc, Graham said the move "is based on the bank using corporate advertising to promote lifestyles that are counter to what God’s word teaches. This is not about a business being gay friendly, it's about whether the business is using stockholder’s money to promote a lifestyle that is not biblical."
When asked how a financial sponsor of a gay pride event was not doing exactly that, a spokesman declined further comment.
In his original call to boycott, Graham said it was necessary to boycott businesses like Wells Fargo in order to “fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community.” Graham asked those who agree to share the post and so far, more than 43,000 have shared it.
“It has dawned on me that we don’t have to do business with them,” Graham wrote in his post. “At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we are moving our accounts from Wells Fargo to another bank. And guess what—we don’t have to shop at Tiffany & Co., there are plenty of other jewelry stores. This is one way we as Christians can speak out—we have the power of choice,” he wrote.
The Wells Fargo ad that prompted Graham's boycott features two women learning sign language; in the final scene, they meet a young, deaf girl, signing to her “we’re going to be your new mommies.” The bank is just one of the many advertisers who have been courting gay consumers more frequently in recent years – Kindle, Marriot, Chevrolet, Target, and Cheerios all ran ads last year – as same-sex marriage becomes more widely accepted and legal.
A Pew Research Center survey released Monday found that 57% of Americans favor allowing gay marriage; it’s already legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Later this month, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision on gay marriage that could settle the issue for good.
At the same time, evangelicals are increasingly vocal in their opposition and advocating for laws that protect their decision to do so, promoting a slew of controversial “religious freedom” laws across the country.
In Indiana and Arkansas, signed laws prompted a backlash so widespread that consumers nationally called for their own boycotts. States like Connecticut and Washington banned state funded travel to the state, consumers vowed to avoid the state, and performers cancelled events. Angie’s List cancelled plans for a job-creating expansion in Indiana and Apple CEO Tim Cook – who is openly gay – wrote an op-ed protesting the law. In response to the outrage, Arkansas and Indiana pushed through legislative fixes to Indiana and Arkansas’ religious freedom laws, mandating that gay people couldn’t be discriminated against.
But the legislative battles continue: in North Carolina, a bill to allow city employees to bow out of handling the paperwork for gay weddings, will likely create significant delays for couples in more rural parts of the state.