July 31, 2012, 2:37 PM

Amazon’s CEO gives millions to a gay marriage campaign

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos back Washington state’s same-sex marriage law.

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Acting on a request from a former employee of Amazon.com Inc., Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, last week donated $2.5 million to back a campaign that supports Washington state legislation that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The donation from the couple last week doubled the funds raised so far by Washington United for Marriage, or WUM, a statewide coalition running a publicity campaign urging Washington residents to vote yes this November on Referendum 74. The referendum will let voters decide whether to make effective the law passed by the state legislature and signed in February by Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat. The law was supposed to become effective June 7, but the effective date was postponed and made subject to a public referendum on Election Day, Nov. 6, after petitions were filed by the law’s opponents, according a spokesman for WUM.

WUM has also received donations in support of Referendum 74 of $100,000 each from Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, the spokesman says. The group is now mentioning the donation from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos in its fundraising campaign to try to drum up interest among other donors, he adds.

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos decided to donate the campaign after getting an e-mail request from former Amazon employee Jennifer Cast, who had worked at the retailer in several positions between 1996 and 2001, including as vice president of books, music and video, according to her LinkedIn profile. Cast is now WUM’s volunteer co-chair of finance.

“We get support from all over the business community, including large employers who say it supports their ability to attract and retain knowledge workers to assist them in our high-technology economy,” says the WUM spokesman.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which represents 2,200 companies, has voted internally to support Referendum 74. The business group notes that the law will help businesses compete against companies in other states in employee recruitment and simplify the administration of employee benefits.

If voters approve the referendum, the law will go into effect in December. Washington would join six other states and the District of Columbia that already have similar laws, the spokesman says.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, and Microsoft is No. 74.

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