Billionaire Amazon President Jeff Bezos just became one of the largest financial backers of gay marriage rights in the country with a hefty $2.5 million pledge supporting Washington State's Referendum 74, which will legalize same-sex marriage in that state if approved by voters this November. The gift from Bezos doubles the funds in the pro-Referendum 74 coffers.

Bezos, who pledged the gift along with his wife MacKenzie Bezos, joins the list of straight business execs who are throwing their support behind marriage equality. According to the New York Times today, noted Washington State rich people Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft each pledged $100,000 to the referendum campaign. As Zach Silk, campaign manager for pro-marriage equality group Washington United for Marriage, put it to the Times, "To get this from a straight, married couple sends a powerful message that marriage is seen as a fundamental question of fairness."

In the past, marriage equality has come up against well-financed opposition across the country from groups like Preserve Marriage Washington, who are working to shoot down R74. In this case, however, the opposition has stated they only plan to raise around $4 million to fight the referendum and overturn a law making gay marriage legal in Washington State. With the Bezos gift, supporters now have around $5 million of the total $8 million they plan to raise to affirm marriage equality.

Bezos' sizable donation may have been influenced in part by a heartfelt email sent to him by Jennifer Cast, an early Amazon employee and lesbian mother of four, who now works as a fundraiser for the pro-R74 cause. In the email, Ms. Cast wrote: “Jeff, I suspect you support marriage equality. I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.” Two days later, Bezos reportedly responded: "this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie."

[Washington United for Marriage]