Microsoft’s Ballmer, Gates donate $100,000 each to marriage equality

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Bill Gates. - PHOTO: biography.com

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer and co-founder Bill Gates have each donated $100,000 to the campaign supporting the state’s new gay marriage law, which faces a referendum vote in November.

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said the checks were reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission on July 2.

“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.”

Microsoft is one of several prominent Pacific Northwest businesses that have expressed support for same-sex marriage. Others include Starbucks Corp. and Nike Inc.

Referendum 74 was certified for the ballot last month after gay marriage opponents turned in more than 240,000 signatures, far more than the minimum of 120,577 valid voter signatures required.

The referendum seeks to overturn the law passed earlier this year allowing same-sex marriage in the state. That law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in February. The law was supposed to take effect June 7 but was put on hold once the signatures were turned in.

Gay marriage supporters have been raising money for months to protect the law, as national groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, have said they’ll aggressively fight to strike it down. The National Organization for Marriage was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine.

Before the Microsoft-related donation, Washington United for Marriage had raised nearly $1.5 million for the campaign to fight back attempts to overturn the law. Preserve Marriage Washington has raised more than $130,000, according to the most recent numbers with the Public Disclosure Commission, though the money race is expected to heat up significantly in the coming months.

Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Maryland legalized gay marriage this year as well, 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 Maine Legislature. And in Minnesota, voters will decide whether or not to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage there.

Online:

Referendum 74 language: http://bit.ly/Aog5aO

Preserve Marriage Washington: http://preservemarriagewashington.com

Washington United for Marriage: http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org

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