Daily News –

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos donates $2.5 million to Washington state marriage-equality campaign
Along with his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, the entrepreneur makes both a financial and a very public commitment to the cause of legalizing gay marriage in the U.S.
BY CHARLIE WELLS / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Mackenzie and Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com founder and his wife, made a singificant $2.5 million donation to the Washington United for Marriagecampaign that is working to preserve the legality of gay marriage in Washington state.
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The billionaire founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, along with his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, have just delivered a $2.5 million gift to same-sex marriage advocates in the company’s home state of Washington, injecting a jolt of momentum into a statewide campaign for gay marriage. The donation establishes entrepreneur Bezos and MacKenzie as two of the largest financial supporters of gay marriage in the United States.

The gift instantly doubled the monetary resources available to backers of Referendum 74, a Washington ballot measure that reaffirms the legality of gay marriage coming before voters this November. The referendum originated this spring, when opponents of marriage equality collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot – and to urge that voters reject it. The measure’s success would validate a law passed in the Legislature this year, legalizing gay marriage in the heavily Democratic state.

“It’s an amazing gift, an amazing investment in our campaign and we’re really grateful to Jeff and MacKenzie,” Washington United for Marriage campaign manager Zach Silk told the Daily News. “It’s clear to us that they saw this as the time to step up and invest in the opportunity to make history,” he said.

Those close to the campaign, which has received big-ticket donations from the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, were quick to point out that these large gifts represent only a portion of the campaign’s backing.

“The donation really shows how there is broad-based support for marriage equality from a broad set of constituencies across Washington state,” Josh Friedes, the director of marriage equality for Equal Rights Washington, told the Daily News.

“The size of this contribution makes it easier for us to compete with the large out of state contributions provided by the National Organization for Marriage, which has traditionally come into states when there is a marriage question on the ballot,” he said.

Friedes said conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage tend to donate large sums of money to local campaigns very late in the game, lulling civil rights groups into a false sense of security.

Preserve Marriage Washington, a conservative organization opposed to Referendum 74, released a statement Friday on its website, claiming that “if this law goes unchallenged, voters would have no say and marriage would be changed for every person in our state from being the union of one man and one woman to being a genderless institution.”

The organization blogged that the Bezos donation would help “impose same-sex marriage” in Washington.

For his part, Friedes said the benefits of the Bezos gift extend beyond the financial.

Attitudes toward marriage, he said, change when people “talk to their friends about why marriage matters.” Still, he said initiating those conversations can be challenging.

“This donation, itself, has sparked the conversation,” Friedes said, noting the proliferation of discourse on the topic today on Facebook, Twitter, and – perhaps characteristically of Seattle – in coffee shops.