OLYMPIA – A campaign to ratify same-sex marriage in Washington received $2.5 million from the founder of Amazon.com.
Washington United for Marriage, which is pushing approval of Referendum 74 on the Nov. 6 ballot, announced the contribution from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos on Friday. A spokesman said it was the largest single donation in the country to a campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.
Although campaign manager Zach Silk said the ballot measure faces “opponents with deep pockets who are committed to spending millions to defeat us,” Washington United for Marriage is now the organization with a seven-figure campaign fund and six-figure donors.
The Bezoses’ donation more than doubles the campaign’s total contributions, to about $4.8 million, and shows continuing support from the state’s high-tech executives. The campaign has also received contributions of $100,000 each from Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
Four other committees that support the referendum have also formed, and they’ve raised about $166,000, Public Disclosure Commission records show.
Preserve Marriage Washington, the group that gathered signatures to put the measure on the ballot, has reported about $250,000 in contributions.
Although R-74 was drafted and brought to the ballot by opponents of same-sex marriage, it is written in such a way that those who want to extend marriage rights would vote yes, and those who want to allow only marriage between a man and a woman would vote no.
The Washington Legislature passed a bill legalizing marriage between same-sex couples early this year and it was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, who had announced her support for the change before the session started. But opponents quickly filed a referendum and gathered the needed signatures to place the law on hold.
Six states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont – as well as Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, but no state has approved it through a ballot measure. Maryland and Maine also have same-sex marriage proposals on statewide ballots this fall.