Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon.com, and his wife, Mackenzie, have donated $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage (WUM), the coalition working to protect marriage in the state of Washington for same-sex couples. Of course, we should expect their unselfish generosity to be turned into a boycott campaign by NOM or the American Family Association, or the Family Research Council — despite the fact that Mike Huckabee twice over the past week called boycotts “economic terrorism.”
Bezos, 48, founded Amazon in 1994 in Seattle, Washington and grew it into a company with revenues last year of over $48 billion, himself is worth $21 billion.
The $2.5 million gift “instantly” makes the Bezos “among the largest financial backers of gay marriage rights in the country,” the New York Times notes:
With the gift, the couple have doubled the money available to the proponents of Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state by affirming a law that passed the Legislature this year. Courts or lawmakers have declared gay marriage legal in six other states, but backers of such measures have never succeeded at the ballot box.
Proponents of the effort in Washington State called it a game-changing gift that gives them a fighting chance in November.
“To get this from a straight, married couple sends a powerful message that marriage is seen as a fundamental question of fairness,” Zach Silk, the campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said Thursday in an interview.
The Times also offers this heart-warming tale of how the donation came about:
Mr. Bezos was approached via e-mail on Sunday by Jennifer Cast, one of Amazon’s earliest employees and a lesbian mother of four children who is now a fund-raising chairwoman of the pro-referendum effort.
In her e-mail, sent Sunday evening, Ms. Cast, 50, implored Mr. Bezos to understand the importance of the issue to her and her longtime partner.
“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,” Ms. Cast wrote. “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.”
In an interview on Thursday night, Ms. Cast said she had no idea how Mr. Bezos would respond. Though she had worked closely with him when Amazon had only a few dozen employees, she left the company in 2001 and said she had never talked about same-sex marriage with him.
“We were chatting about the biz. We weren’t chatting about our lives,” she said, recalling her time at the company. “I never, ever in my life talked to him about gay marriage.”
In the e-mail, Ms. Cast described in detail the pain she endured as a young adult and the difficulties she faced publicly acknowledging her sexuality. At the end, she pointedly asked him to donate between $100,000 and $200,000 to the referendum cause.
“Jeff, I suspect you support marriage equality,” she wrote. “I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.”
She hit “send” and waited.
Two days later, on Tuesday, she received a reply while in a car with her family. Recalling that moment, she said she had to read it out loud twice to make sure she had read it right.
“Jen,” the e-mail said, “this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie.”
Washington United for Marriage says they are “a coalition of organizations, congregations, unions, and businesses working together to defend civil marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples.”
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