Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank will pull support for a Florida school voucher program because it funnels money to private schools with stated anti-LGBTQ policies.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program pays for low-income students to attend private schools in the state. Companies can donate to that program, and in exchange, they get the value of their donation written off on their taxes. Hundreds of national companies, including Fifth Third, have donated.
Last week, the Orlando Sentinel revealed that about 156 of the 2,000 private school campuses that benefit from the program have explicitly anti-LGBTQ policies. More than 80 of those schools have policies that state that gay or transgender students can be expelled from or denied enrollment in those schools. Others simply teach that being gay or trans is wrong or a sin.
Those schools educated about 20,000 students last year, according to the report.
That revelation has led to outrage from some in Florida, including Democrat State Rep. Carlos G. Smith, who called out Fifth Third Bank specifically in a retweet of an editorial by the Sentinel.
"'Companies have the same choice in front of them,' Smith quoted from the editorial. "'People are watching to see what they do. Or what they don’t do.' That means YOU @FifthThird bank. Marching in @OrlandoPride while also funding anti-LGBTQ schools is NOT okay!"
The bank disclosed its decision to pull donations to the program next year in response to that tweet. Fifth Third donated $5.4 million to the voucher program in 2018.
"Thanks Rep. Smith for your feedback," Fifth Third Bank's official account tweeted. "We definitely stand with #LGBTQ students and parents. We have communicated with program officials that we will not be contributing again until more inclusive policies have been adopted by all participating schools to protect the sexual orientation of all our students. (And, we will see you at the next @OrlandoPride!)."
Wells Fargo Bank also decided to pull donations to the program.
Not everyone is happy about the banks' decisions, though.
"Cowards," one Twitter user wrote. "You are hurting the children of poor families by denying them access to better schools. You are giving into threats by a vocal minority who can't stand anyone thay (sic) doesnt agree with them 100 percent. Get ready. You caved on this and they will go after you now for more."
Others, however, were much more supportive.
"It's vital for companies to look at what schools they endorse and help fund," another person tweeted. "Schools that treat their LGBT+ students and community as sub-human shouldn't receive as much funding as they do. Unfortunately, money is power, and these unsafe spaces don't deserve such power."