Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are donating $2.5 million to help pass Washington State’s same-sex marriage referendum, after receiving a request from a former Amazon staffer.
The donation, the largest contribution to the cause of marriage equality to date, doubles the coffers of the campaign for Referendum 74, which affirms the measure passed by the state legislature last year. (Opponents are looking to repeal the law at the voting booth.)
Bezos made the generous donation after receiving an email on Sunday from Jennifer Cast, an early Amazon hire who is now raising funds to get the referendum passed. Telling Bezos she wanted the right “to marry the love of her life,” Cast framed the situation bluntly: “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.”
Cast told The New York Times she wasn’t sure how her old billionaire boss would respond:
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.”
We’re going to take the money it would cost to buy three Chick-fil-A classic sandwiches and order the last Hunger Games book instead. Not that they need the cash or anything.