As Pride Month winds down under the shadow of emboldened reactionaries on the Supreme Court, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Charlotte’s self-proclaimed gay-friendly corporations fund the homophobic agenda threatening to overtake us.
Consider just three examples: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist, each of which sought to mollycoddle the LGBTQ community by ringing in the month with a cheap, rainbow-themed light show on its uptown skyscrapers.
Over the last five election cycles, these three companies’ political action committees donated more than $10.3 million to the Republican Party, GOP candidates, and PACs aligned with the party. (This includes donations to federal campaigns and organizations and omits most contributions to state and local political actors.)
Their money has supported — and continues to support — a Republican Party whose most recent national platform said of marriage, “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.”
The party “condemn[ed]” the Supreme Court’s decisions recognizing marriage equality and called on the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriage.
The platform concluded, “[W]e do not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.”
The most recent platform of the North Carolina GOP, which delegates adopted last month, echoes these sentiments: “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation of civil society.” States, the party said, should be permitted to discriminate against queer people by outlawing their marriages.
This is mild stuff compared to the platform recently adopted by Republicans in Texas. It calls homosexuality an “abnormal lifestyle choice,” opposes all efforts to provide legal protections to queer people, proclaims by fiat that transgender people don’t exist, and rejects any right to same-sex marriage.
This is who Republicans are — and despite their rainbow-themed PR campaigns, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist are helping the GOP advance its anti-gay agenda by giving generously to Republican political actors.
Since 2013, the three banks have given a combined $709,688 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). (All these numbers come from Open Secrets, which tracks campaign contributions.) These organizations have as their sole mission the election of Republicans hoping to enact the party’s platform.
The plan characterizes efforts to “devalue and redefine the traditional family” as an affront to “God’s design for humanity.” Scott’s plan declares that to assert the mere existence of transgender people is to “deny science,” and it disclaims the propriety of public schools spending money on “diversity training,” code words for shutting down work that dares to posit the humanity and equality of queer people. (Scott personally earned a zero rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard for the last Congress.)
Meanwhile, the NRCC is committed to “rais[ing] and spend[ing] around $200 million to take back the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi” — so the GOP can wield power and implement the anti-gay designs it has forecast to all who will listen. (The NRCC is currently headed by Rep. Tom Emmer. Since 2013, he has gotten $76,500 in campaign contributions from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist. He has a zero rating from the HRC.)
North Carolina’s senators — Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both of whom have abysmal ratings from the HRC — also got money from these three companies: Burr pulled in $30,000, while Tillis received $55,000. (No doubt Burr’s haul would have been larger had he not announced he would retire at the end of his current term.)
Burr and Tillis’s leadership PACs — Next Century Fund and Together Holding Our Majority, respectively — also got money from our trio of banks. (Leadership PACs function as legal slush funds from which elected officials can dole out money to curry favor with other politicians.) In turn, the leadership PACs gave to a number of proudly anti-gay officeholders.
Next Century Fund gave money to former Sen. David Perdue, who earned a 100% rating from the anti-queer Family Research Council; Sen. James Risch, who supports a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples; and former Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose career is littered with anti-LGBTQ advocacy.
Together Holding Our Majority gave to Sen. Tom Cotton, who once suggested queer people in America don’t have it so bad because they don’t hang us here like they do in Iran. It also contributed to Sen. Ted Cruz, who planned to make his opposition to same-sex marriage “front and center” in his failed 2016 presidential campaign.
Tillis’s PAC also donated to Sen. Mike Lee (advocate for television disclaimers warning of “harmful” queer content); Sen. John Kennedy (opponent of the Equality Act on the specious grounds it would allow young boys to show their penises to young girls); and Sen. Chuck Grassley (longtime opponent of same-sex marriage).
Over in the House, Rep. Patrick McHenry, a North Carolinian who serves as ranking minority member on the Financial Services Committee, received $169,500 from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist.
McHenry condemned decisions by state supreme courts protecting the right to same-sex marriage. He described the rulings as “deviant attacks” and called for a constitutional amendment “to defend marriage at the national level.” (While McHenry made these remarks in 2006, nothing has changed: HRC gave him a zero rating on its latest scorecard.)
Rep. French Hill of Arkansas, another senior Republican on the Financial Services Committee, also benefitted from the political largesse of these three banks: Since taking office in 2015, he’s gotten $105,000 from them.
To be sure, there’s nothing especially remarkable about the contributions Burr, Tillis, McHenry, and Hill received from these supposedly progressive companies — and that’s the point: These senators and congressmen are thoroughly typical beneficiaries of the banks’ anti-gay political work.
Other similar beneficiaries abound.
Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina received $54,000 from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist. He has consistently earned a zero rating from the HRC and previously co-sponsored a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Fellow North Carolinian Tedd Budd, who serves in the House and is seeking to replace Burr in the Senate, received $76,500 from the three banks.
Budd earned the True Blue Award from the Family Research Council, which praised him for “vot[ing] to reject the radical gender ideology that would overhaul our federal civil rights framework to mandate special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity.” He also said the Equality Act represents “the triumph of cancel culture over facts, reason, and empirical knowledge.”
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who serves in the Republican congressional leadership as minority whip, got $66,000 from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist. He touts his “family values” and seeks to prohibit same-sex marriage by constitutional amendment. Scalise also earned the Gladiator Award from the Louisiana Family Forum, a state analog of the anti-gay Family Research Council.
Wells Fargo contributed not only to Scalise individually, but to his leadership PAC, Eye of the Tiger. The PAC has passed along money to Rep. Jodey Arrington, who believes marriage is a “sacred union between one man and one woman”; Rep. Virginia Foxx, who called the murder of Matthew Shepard a “hoax”; Rep. Ronny Jackson, who mocked as “woke crap” the Marine Corps’ tribute to LGBTQ service members; Rep. David Rouzer, who “believe[s] in the Biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman”; and former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who opposes same-sex marriage and the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children.
These are but a portion of the campaign contributions to virulently anti-gay politicians from supposedly gay-friendly companies, money used by the GOP to gain, keep, and exercise power to the detriment of the queer community.
Last week, a Supreme Court majority super-charged with Republican appointees — a majority that exists only because the GOP gained political power with the help of companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist — eliminated a woman’s right to choose to get an abortion.
In their decision, five Republican justices took a wrecking ball to the idea of a constitutional right to privacy — the foundation of queer equality — while simultaneously disavowing any desire to strip gay Americans of their rights. Although the logic of Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion undeniably places gay rights in the Court’s crosshairs, he asked us to take him at his word that he and his colleagues won’t pull the trigger.
He is not to be believed. As the dissenters observed, “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.”
Indeed it is, and Republicans have told us — and continue to tell us — which one it will be.
Just one day after the Court’s decision overturning Roe, for example, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton described gay equality, including the right of queer people to be free from criminal prosecution for their sex lives, as a “legislative issue” with no proper constitutional foundation.
With the continued help of companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Truist, an invigorated, minoritarian homophobia — all of it coming from the Republican Party — threatens to seize ever more power in this country. If we are to successfully fight back, we must be clear-eyed about who counts as an ally — and profit-seeking corporations that seek to distract us with symbolic light shows while contributing millions of real dollars to an avowedly anti-queer political party shouldn’t make the cut.
The next time allegedly gay-friendly companies feign push-back against homophobia by smearing rainbow-themed corporate logos on their websites or funding queer celebrations like Charlotte Pride, we’d do well to employ the sort of piercing, unequivocal moral judgment recently displayed by Rep. Liz Cheney.
As Trump-inspired insurrectionists attempted to sack the Capitol, execute the vice president, and prevent the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, 2021, members of Congress sought to flee from the violent mob. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Trump acolyte who had inspired the insurrectionists with tall tales of a stolen election, saw Cheney on the House floor, reached out to her, and implored, “Let me help you.”
She smacked his hand away and snapped, “Get away from me! You fucking did this!”