Cheraw resident Mike White picketed the town’s Wells Fargo branch Monday as an ad campaign featuring lesbian parents ignited conservative backlash against the nation’s fourth-largest bank.
White carried a sign reading “Boycott Wells Fargo: They promote homosexuals and lesbians who want your children.” He said he decided to demonstrate after he and his wife saw the ad on the bank’s website.
“They had an ad with these two lesbians,” said White. “and these lesbians say that they soon will become mommies, two mommies, because they will soon adopt a baby, a child.”
The ad White saw is a video depicting two women learning and practicing sign language. It ends with the pair meeting a presumably hearing-impaired girl and signing to her that they will be her new mommies. The video, titled “Learning Sign Language” can be found on Wells Fargo’s website and YouTube channel.
“My wife came and closed out her account,” he said. “We will be asking First Citizens Bank what’s their stand on homosexuals?”
Shortly after the ad’s premiere, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association President Franklin Graham announced he would transfer the nonprofit’s accounts — estimated at more than $100 million — from Wells Fargo to BB&T.
White said he and his wife opened their account with Wachovia after moving to Cheraw in 1987 and remained with the bank after Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2008. Because of the bank’s stance on same-sex adoption, White said he and his wife were no longer going to do business with Wells Fargo.
“People don’t have to support this lifestyle, but they choose to,” White said. “Christians can choose to bank where they like, to shop where they like.”
White said the bank’s apparent support of homosexuality conflicts with his religious beliefs.
“It’s one thing to be neutral, but it’s another thing to be proactive for them,” he said. “Christians can support a business that’s neutral, but we can’t support a business that’s proactive.”
Cheraw police officers approached White as he picketed the bank Monday morning and asked him to “move on.” White refused, insisting that he had a right to protest on public property. The officers instructed White to restrict his protest to the public sidewalk and to stay off Wells Fargo property.
The officers also told White to move his truck because it was illegally parked. White complied.
“This is the future for Christians,” White said as he returned from moving his vehicle to the church parking lot across the street. “When you call evil ‘evil,’ they call you bad.”
Wells Fargo says the people featured in its advertisements reflect the broad range of customers who do business with the bank, which has more than 8,700 locations and $1.7 trillion in assets.
“At Wells Fargo, serving every customer is core to our vision and values,” corporate communications manager Josh Dunn told The Cheraw Chronicle in a statement. “Diversity and inclusion is foundational to who we are as a company, and part of our vision and values. Wells Fargo’s support for the LGBT community aligns with our broader commitment to diversity — to serve diverse customers, to hire, develop and retain diverse team members and to encourage team members to value and respect each other for their differences.
“Our advertising content reflects our company’s values, and represents the diversity of the communities we serve.”
Reach reporter Randy Garner at 843-537-5261 and follow him on Twitter @CherawChronicle.