The pro-Ref. 74 campaign — which is working to retain the same-sex marriage law in Washington — has received two $100,000 donations, one from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and one from the company's CEO, Steve Ballmer.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer have each donated $100,000 to the campaign to retain a same-sex marriage law in Washington state.
Their contributions bring to just under $1.9 million raised by Washington United for Marriage, the effort to defend gay marriage in the state.
Microsoft as well as Expedia, Nike, Google, Amazon and a number of other Northwest employers have endorsed the law, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed in February.
Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said the checks were cut Friday and reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission on Monday.
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“It’s going to make a tremendous difference,” Silk said. “It’s very important for us to have that broad support from business leaders and companies themselves.”
Opponents of gay marriage, organized under the campaign Preserve Marriage Washington, collected a record number of signatures to put a referendum on the measure on the November ballot.
Supported by the National Organization for Marriage, the group wants voters to repeal the law by voting to reject Referendum 74 in November. So far, it has raised just over $130,000, according to filings with the Public Disclosure Commission.
Phone and email messages left by The Associated Press with Preserve Marriage Washington, the group behind the referendum seeking to overturn the law, were not returned Monday.
Washington United, meanwhile, wants voters to approve Ref. 74, to retain the same-sex marriage law.
Other large donations to Washington United’s campaign reported to the state: $50,000 from Larry Stone, president of SCAFCO, a Spokane company; $44,000 from a retired Amazon manager; and $10,000 from a Facebook software engineer.
Microsoft spokesman Jeff Reading said he couldn’t comment on personal campaign contributions made by any Microsoft employee, but noted that the company’s support of same-sex marriage has long been clear.
In January, the company publicly supported the measure that ultimately was passed by the Legislature, and in April, Microsoft donated $10,000 to the campaign to uphold the law.
“When we announced our support for the bill, we understood the very real possibility that it would be challenged at the ballot,” Reading said. “Microsoft’s contribution to the campaign is our company supporting marriage equality legislation through one last step.”
It’s not the first time Ballmer and Gates contributed money to support gay rights.
Three years ago, they each gave $25,000 to the Ref. 71 campaign to retain the state’s domestic-partnership law.
Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Maryland legalized gay marriage, but that state is also poised to have a public vote this fall.
In Maine, voters will decide on an initiative to approve same-sex marriage three years after a referendum overturned a law passed by the Legislature.
And in Minnesota, voters will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.