Zions Bank Pulls Sponsorship of Gay Rights Organization's Fundraiser

Zions Bank Pulls Sponsorship of Gay Rights Organization's Fundraiser

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Zions Bank is pulling its sponsorship from a gay-rights group's fundraiser Saturday after receiving anonymous phone calls Wednesday saying the event supports same-sex marriage.

The Orem event is to support the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights advocacy group.

Zions Bank spokesman Robert Brough said the sponsorship was pulled to "avoid any misinterpretation related to the controversy around this issue (same-sex marriage).

"We signed onto this thinking it was a Democratic Party human rights event to promote equality in the work force, particularly single mothers," he said. "When we realized there may be some conflicts here, we withdrew."

Brough said the sponsorship was requested by philanthropist Bruce Bastian, who is hosting the fund-raiser at his Orem home.

Bastian "certainly is someone who's done a whole lot for the community," Brough said. "I don't think he was trying to mislead us at all."

Brough said bank officials apparently assumed the event was tied to the Democratic Party because Tipper Gore is the keynote speaker.

"Without being intimately familiar" with the HRC, Brough said, bank officials agreed about two weeks ago to sponsor the event framed as a fund-raiser for work-force equality.

He said the decision to pull the bank's sponsorship was made after several ban officials received anonymous phone calls from people saying the event supported gay marriage and that the Deseret Morning News was working on a report that Zions Bank supports gay marriage. The newspaper was not working on such a report, it said.

Michael Marriott, Utah's representative on the HRC's national board of directors, said the event's sponsors are "certainly not supporting the concept of gay marriage.

"It's in support of the work of the Human Rights Campaign, plain and simple," he said,

Marriott said Wednesday he had not received any concerned phone calls from Zions or any other event sponsors.

Michael Mitchell, executive director of Equality Utah, which is not involved in the HRC fund-raiser, said sponsorship decisions are the prerogative of private businesses, but pulling the sponsorship was "cowardly."

"The fact is there are a lot of gay and lesbian customers at Zions Bank, and several employees," he said. "It's a slap in the face. ... I don't think (sponsorship) says they support gay marriage."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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