Evangelist Billy Graham’s son Franklin told a conservative radio show he’s protesting a Wells Fargo ad featuring a lesbian couple by moving association money to BB&T bank — which sponsored a Miami Beach Gay Pride fundraising reception earlier this year.
The Beach fundraiser in February was held at a BB&T branch and featured a wedding ceremony of two men together 55 years.
The event was designed to honor the “Legacy Couples” program established during the first Miami Beach Gay Pride in 2009. Legacy Couples are featured guests of the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade who have had committed relationships of 10 years or more.
“For more than 140 years, BB&T has supported the goals of our clients, friends and neighbors by sharing financial knowledge and guidance,” Arthur Costa, BB&T’s regional multicultural markets officer, said in a news release announcing the fundraiser.
“We also support the individuals and organizations that broaden our perspectives and strengthen the diverse fabric of our communities. That’s why BB&T is proud to be a part of this day of pride and celebration of the 2015 Legacy Couples,” Costa said in the release.
Miami Gay Pride spokesman Richard Murry said Tuesday that his organization is proud of its long-standing partnership with BB&T bank.
“Their support of our event [enhanced] the positive and uplifting experience we were able to provide over 130,000 spectators this year,” Murry said. “The surprise wedding that took place at their South Beach branch ... was one of the most heartwarming moments during our Pride season this year.”
BB&T ranks highly on the Human Rights Campaign’s buyers guide — the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization’s ranking of businesses by workplace equality.
A score of 80 to 100 is given to businesses that rank the highest for workplace equality. BB&T’s score is 80, below Wells Fargo’s score of 100.
Graham and officials at the Billy Graham Evangelical Association could not be reached for comment Tuesday on the switch and BB&T’s involvement in the Miami Beach event.
On Monday, Graham told the Observer that he was not targeting companies that hired gays and lesbians and served LGBT customers. His objection, he said, was to Wells Fargo and other companies using shareholder money to pay for advertising featuring same-sex couples.
BB&T spokeswoman Cynthia Williams said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer that the bank “has a strong history” of sponsoring community events to help the lender reach prospects and clients. “This does not imply endorsement of these organization’s positions on any or all political or social issues,” she said.
“Our mission is to help our clients achieve economic success and financial security regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. ... BB&T embraces diversity and inclusion for our associates and in all aspects of our business. However, we do not take formal positions on nonbanking or social issues.”
Graham disclosed his chosen bank during an interview on Washington Watch, a radio program broadcast by the Family Research Council — a conservative group that applauded Graham’s decision to leave Wells Fargo.
“At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we’re closing our accounts at Wells Fargo and we’re moving it to another bank here in North Carolina, BB&T, that is a good bank,” Graham told the show Monday. “We’ve done business with them at Samaritan’s Purse for many years. And just a good solid bank that’s very good at banking.”
Graham said the switch will save the BGEA money — $100,000 a year — because of BB&T’s lower service charges.
Asked by the show’s host, Craig James, if he had spoken with Wells Fargo before deciding to close the accounts, Graham said BGEA sent letters to Wells Fargo’s board chairman in San Francisco and its vice president in North Carolina who is responsible for the accounts.
Graham said his message to Wells Fargo in the letters was: “Because of their decision, we’re making a decision ... to take our money elsewhere.”
The BGEA, started by Billy Graham, spreads the Gospel via worldwide crusades and Charlotte’s Billy Graham Library. In 2014, it received contributions and other income totaling $107.7 million, according to the BGEA’s most recent ministry report.
Charlotte Observer staff writers Tim Funk and Deon Roberts contributed to this report.