Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is contributing $2.5 million to an effort to keep same-sex marriage legal in Washington, joining hedge-fund managers including Paul Singer and Cliff Asness in backing the issue in U.S. states.
The gift from the Seattle-based Internet retailer’s founder and his wife, MacKenzie, is the largest from an individual in support of gay vows, according to a statement today from Washington United for Marriage. The coalition is working to get voters to support same-sex nuptials in November, when similar referendums will also be held in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.
Singer, founder of the $20 billion hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. in New York, and Asness, co-founder of AQR Capital Management in Greenwich, Connecticut, are among five pro-Republican financiers who have donated $1.5 million to the “Win More States Fund” of New York-based Freedom to Marry, according to the national advocacy group. Singer and Asness back Republican Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage, in the race against President Barack Obama.
“We’re seeing more people willing to say that this is not a partisan issue,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, a gay-rights group that received $150,000 from Singer. “This isn’t about politics; it’s about families.”
Singer, whose son is gay, has given $1 million to Restore Our Future, a super-political action committee supporting Romney. He also backed the successful effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York last year. Asness gave Romney $2,500 on March 13, according to opensecrets.org, a Washington-based campaign-finance watchdog group.
“This issue is a no-brainer for me,” Asness said in a telephone interview today. “While you won’t change people with radical views, you can help give courage and cover to the moderate Republicans out there who want to back gay marriage. I disagree with Romney firmly on this issue. But I agree with him way more on issues across the board than I do with Obama, making Romney an easy choice for me.”
The other Freedom to Marry donors include Dan Loeb, founder of $8.7 billion Third Point LLC in New York, Seth Klarman, who runs Baupost Group LLC in Boston, and KKR & Co. Managing Director Ken Mehlman. Loeb and Klarman have also given to Romney, according to opensecrets.org. Mehlman was former president George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign manager and former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
“The party of Lincoln and Reagan should stand first and foremost for freedom,” Mehlman, who is gay, wrote in January in New Hampshire’s Union Leader newspaper as his fellow party members pushed -- ultimately unsuccessfully -- to strip the state’s recognition of gay vows. “Aren’t politicians already too involved in too much of our lives? Why would we want to expand government to such a personal space?”
Maine voters will revisit the issue three years after they overturned a law that would have made same-sex weddings legal. Washington and Maryland will weigh laws passed this year granting gay couples the right. In Minnesota, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to recognize only unions between one man and one woman.
While polls indicate growing support for legalization among the U.S. population, voters have rejected granting it in the more than 30 referendums on the issue.
“Donors know how crucial it is to end our opponent’s last, best talking point: That our side doesn’t win at the ballot,” Marc Solomon, national director at Freedom to Marry, said in an e-mailed statement.
New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia permit the practice.
Brian Maddox, a spokesman for AQR, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. Loeb didn’t immediately return telephone calls seeking comment, nor did Elissa Doyle, a spokeswoman for Third Point. Elaine Mann, a spokeswoman for Klarman’s hedge fund Baupost, didn’t return e-mails and telephone messages seeking comment.
The contributions by the hedge-fund managers were reported earlier this week by the Financial Times.