A school scholarship program just lost millions of dollars because it discriminates against LGBT students

Two major banks have pulled their support from a private school voucher program in Florida after reports of LGBT+ discrimination in many of the schools it funded.

Step Up For Students is a scholarship organisation that administers the majority of Florida’s school vouchers, a certificate of government funding for individual students.

Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank both donated millions of dollars to the fund to get deductions on their state tax bills, with Fifth Third Bank contributing $5.4 million in 2018 alone.

The banks have now severed ties with the program after an Orlando Sentinel investigation revealed that the fund’s beneficiaries included 83 schools that either expel or refuse to admit LGBT+ students.

Some schools also refuse to educate the children of LGBT+ parents, or to hire staff who are LGBT+. A further 73 schools call being gay or transgender a “biblical sin,” but do not explain how those views play out in school policy decisions.

“That means at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome,” the Sentinel reported.

As well as the two banks, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Waste Management Inc. and Geico were also named, but have yet to respond.

Fifth Third Bank was the first to drop participation in the program after Democrat Carlos Smith questioned how it could march in Orlando Pride while funding anti-LGBT+ schools.

“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,” the bank tweeted on Tuesday. “We are proud to stand with LGBTQ students and parents.”

Fifth Third Bank was followed by Wells Fargo, which confirmed on Wednesday that it would no longer be donating any money to the program.

In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson said: “We have reviewed this matter carefully and have decided to no longer support Step Up for Students. All of us at Wells Fargo highly value diversity and inclusion, and we oppose discrimination of any kind.”