Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Feel Good Story from Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and His Wife MacKenzie

Compare This Story to the Rhetoric of Anti-Gay Opponents of Equality

Washington state through its legislature has passed a law that recognizes marriage as a union of two individuals.  This has obviously offended people who would use government to discriminate against those who lead their lives in a way that those people hate, and so they have organized a campaign to overturn the law in a referendum in the fall.

 The Web site of the group Preserve Marriage Washington says that “the definition of marriage in Washington is under attack” and argues that “if this law goes unchallenged, voters would have no say and marriage would be changed for every person in our state from being the union of one man and one woman to being a genderless institution.”

Same-sex marriage was legalized by Washington’s Legislature in February after a concerted push by Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat. But opponents collected enough signatures to put the legislation to the voters.
Those opposed to Referendum 74 have said they intend to raise as much as $4 million to defeat it and overturn the legislation. 

Opponents of equality have prevailed in every election on the issue of discrimination free marriage.  And they obviously have the money to mount a strong campaign in Washington.  So a former Amazon employee did this.  She sent an e-mail to Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, arriving at Allen & Company's conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010.
Matthew Staver/Bloomberg NewsJeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, arriving at Allen & Company’s conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010.
Mr. Bezos was approached via e-mail on Sunday by Jennifer Cast, one of Amazon’s earliest employees and a lesbian mother of four children who is now a fund-raising chairwoman of the pro-referendum effort.

In her e-mail, sent Sunday evening, Ms. Cast, 50, implored Mr. Bezos to understand the importance of the issue to her and her longtime partner.

“I want to have the right to marry the love of my life and to let my children and grandchildren know their family is honored like a ‘real’ family,” Ms. Cast wrote. “We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win.”

In an interview on Thursday night, Ms. Cast said she had no idea how Mr. Bezos would respond. 

And said this about the pain she had endured in her life, pain brought about by people who would not just leave her alone to enjoy her own private life.

In the e-mail, Ms. Cast described in detail the pain she endured as a young adult and the difficulties she faced publicly acknowledging her sexuality. At the end, she pointedly asked him to donate between $100,000 and $200,000 to the referendum cause.

“Jeff, I suspect you support marriage equality,” she wrote. “I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.”

She hit “send” and waited.

Mr. and Mrs. Bezos made a very short reply.

“Jen,” the e-mail said, “this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie.”

So yes, compare this story to the comments of the opponents of marriage equality, men and women who want to force their views on others when all those people want to do is lead the same lives with the same rights as the rest of us.   Here is another business executive on the subject.

In an interview on The Ken Coleman Show last month, Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy said, "I think we're inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, you know, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes marriage."'

And no, just because they do not support marriage equality as an individual right does not mean that every business leader is trying to impose his or her own views on AmericaHere is the laudatory position of the head of the Marriot Corporation.  Bill Marriot is a devout Mormon, and his church actively opposes marriage equality.

“This church helped me raise a family and has brought great joy and happiness to my life,” he told me. But that didn’t mean gay employees had any less status at Marriott.

“We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else,” he said. “We are an American Church. We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect.” Marriott has both a deep faith and a deep understanding of his responsibility as a leader. Many of his shareholders, customers, and employees don’t belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their values matter, too. . . .

As a result, when his church actively campaigned against same-sex marriage in California, neither Marriott nor the hotel chain donated any money to the cause. Instead, he stepped into the drama by publicly reinforcing his company’s commitment to gay rights through domestic partners benefits and services aimed at gay couples.

Mitt Romney, whose first name is Willard is named after the founder of the Marriott company.  One wonders if maybe he could learn something from the current head of the company.  Think about it Mitt, you could do the country and your candidacy world of good if you could make a simple statement like Mr. Marriott.

Finally, there are some local officials in cities like Chicago and Boston who want to deny Chick-fil-A the right to have more outlets in their town.  This is equally wrong.  As long as the business is in compliance with any local regulations it has the right to operate, regardless of the speech of its owners or managers.  That right is basic to our society and even those who strongly disagree with the views of Chick-fil-A should defend their right to speak without restrictions on their opening stores.

But as far as actually going to an outlet, well, that's something entirely different.

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