The couple’s donation makes them the largest financial backers of gay marriage rights in the United States.
The Bezoses’ donation helped double the amount of money available to proponents of Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington by affirming a law that passed the state’s Legislature this year. Earlier this month, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer donated $100,000 each to support the law. If the referendum is passed, Washington will join six other states that have legalized gay marriage.
Referendum 74 was certified for the November ballot in May and seeks to further the push for the gay-marriage law signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in February. The law was supposed to go into effect on June 7, but has since been put on hold.
Opponents of gay marriage have said they plan to raise up to $4 million to fight the referendum; proponents pledged to raise at least $8 million. With Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos’ donation, backers of Referendum 74 are just $3 million short of their goal.
One of Amazon’s earliest employees, Jennifer Cast, is a fund-raising chairwoman of the pro-referendum movement. Cast, a lesbian mother of four, sent Bezos an email Sunday night explaining the importance of helping the referendum pass.
“I want to have the right to marry the love of my life and to let my children and grandchildren know their family is honored like a ‘real’ family. We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win.”
Cast says she also described her struggles with her sexuality as a young adult, as well as her struggles to publicly acknowledge it. She asked Bezos to donate between $100,000 and $200,000.
To her surprise, Bezos replied,
“Jen, this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff MacKenzie.”
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos have declined to comment on their donation.