Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and his wife have pledged $2.5 million to help the campaign hoping to retain Washington’s marriage equality law at the November ballot.
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 state’s Legislature passed the marriage equality bill in February of this year after Governor Chris Gregoire championed the move.
Unsurprisingly, before the ink was even dry on the bill in fact, anti-marriage equality groups quickly started the process of gathering signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.
When the signatures were counted R-74, as the measure is known, qualified comfortably. However, recent polls suggest that the voting public is in favor of allowing gay couples to marry, with around 54% saying they are inclined to keep the law.
While same-sex marriage has never won at the ballot anywhere in the US, Washington is rather special in that in 2009 it voted to retain a law that expanded the state’s domestic partnership legislation to grant same-sex couples nearly all the state-level rights of marriage, the first time such an expansive law had been approved at the ballot.
Equality advocates hope to build on that success to find victory in November.