Billionaire Internet mogul Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are giving a $2.5 million donation to the backers of Referendum 74, a ballot initiative that would officially legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.
The Washington legislature passed a bill to legalize gay marriage back in February, but opponents of the bill managed to get the issue put on the ballot this November. While six other states have also legalized same-sex marriage, none have been able to do so through a public vote.
Despite support from other local billionaires like Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, backers of the legislation had struggled to find the $8 million they hoped to raise in support of the referendum, but the massive gift from the Amazon.com founder could turn the tide in their favor. Even though Amazon, which is based in Seattle, took a beating when it announced disappointing earnings this week, its founder is obviously still doing pretty well for himself.
According to The New York Times, the donation was spurred by an email sent to Bezos just last weekend, from a former Amazon employee who is now leading the fundraising effort for pro-referendum organizers. Jennifer Cast, who was one of the online retailer's earliest employees, told her former boss the story of her struggles as a young lesbian and the importance of the issue to her and her longtime partner, who are raising four children together. Writing that "To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win," she implored Bezos to give $100,000 to $200,000 to support the cause. The email went out on Sunday and on Tuesday, he responded with the offer of $2.5 million.