PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ The first bank to cater to a national homosexual market has opened its doors in Pensacola and will begin doing business Oct. 11 on the Internet.

G&L Bank _ the initials stand for gay and lesbian _ is among a small number of Internet-focused banks and the first to obtain a thrift charter for Internet lending, founder Steven Dunlap said Wednesday. Its sole walk-in office began operating last week.

``Homophobia runs rampant in the banking industry,'' said G. Kay Griffin, the bank's chairwoman, president and chief executive officer. ``Many banks think a couple needs to have a marriage certificate to show that they are creditworthy.''

The Internet operations will be open around the clock, seven days a week.

Bank investors David Richbourg and Norman Ricks, both retired businessmen, were the first same-sex couple to open a joint account.

``It was the first time we were able to go into a bank as a couple, and be treated with the same respect that other couples have been treated in the past,'' Richbourg said.

He and Ricks have been together for 26 years.

``Every time we bought property together or applied for a loan, it was always candy-coated that we were business partners, and in some areas, it was frowned upon that we were borrowing together,'' Richbourg said.

The bank is capitalized at about $19 million with 70 stockholders. Demographic surveys suggest about 21 million homosexuals live in the United States with $800 billion in spending power.