The gay co-founder of Facebook hasn’t contributed financially to the campaign opposing a measure that would ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina — even though the battle to thwart the amendment is taking place in his home state.
Chris Hughes, who co-founded Facebook along with his Harvard roommate Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 and served as the site’s spokesperson, has made no donations to the campaign against Amendment One since the campaign began last year through 5:30 p.m. on Monday, according to data from the Campaign to Protect All NC Families. According to a Forbes Magazine article published in March, Hughes’ stake in Facebook is worth at least $600 million.
In a statement provided Monday to the Washington Blade, Hughes said he opposes the measure, which will come before voters May 8, because of the negative impact it would have on LGBT families in North Carolina.
“As a native North Carolinian myself, I have opposed this amendment from the start,” Hughes said. “It would write discrimination into the state constitution and hurt gay and lesbian North Carolinians who work hard, contribute to society, and want to protect their families like everyone else.”
Hughes added that he and his fiancé Sean Eldridge, president of the small business investment fund Hudson River Ventures and a senior adviser at Freedom to Marry, have contributed “time and resources” to the fight against Amendment One.
“My fiancé Sean and I have contributed our time and resources to oppose this discriminatory amendment, and we hope that it is defeated next week,” Hughes said. “Along with Freedom to Marry and Equality NC, we helped fund last year’s campaign to keep the amendment off of the ballot and are supportive of the ongoing efforts in the state to win on May 8. Winning the freedom to marry nationwide is a top priority for Sean and myself, and from New York to North Carolina, we’re proud of our work to help make that a reality.”
Same-sex marriage is already barred by statute in North Carolina. Opponents say the measure would also prohibit civil unions and interfere with domestic partner benefits offered by municipalities as well as threaten contractual arrangements between same-sex partners.
Given that Hughes made no contribution to the Campaign to Protect All NC Families, his reference to helping the campaign to keep Amendment One off the ballot could be a reference to contributions made to an effort to stop the state legislature from passing the measure and sending it to voters, which state lawmakers did on Sept. 13.
Hughes did engage in efforts to stop the marriage amendment for coming to the ballot. In a Sept. 9 letter, Hughes wrote an open letter to the General Assembly saying the measure would be “bad for business, bad for the perception of my home state on the national stage and a far cry from job-creating legislation that North Carolina lawmakers should be focused on.” Hughes also pledged to donate $10 for each person who likes Equality North Carolina’s page on Facebook up to a total donation of $10,000.
Born in 1983 in Hickory, N.C., Hughes took on other initiatives after co-founding Facebook. In 2008, he was coordinator of online organizing for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign on My.BarackObama.com, the campaign’s social networking site. Other projects include joining on as entrepreneur in residence at General Catalyst Partners, a Cambridge, Mass.-based venture capital firm, and launching Jumo, a social networking service and website aimed at allowing potential donors to evaluate charities.
In March 2012, Hughes bought a majority share of The New Republic magazine, becoming its owner, editor-in-chief and publisher. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Prior to issuing his statement, Hughes had a brief exchange about Amendment One with the Blade in D.C. at National Public Radio’s “Friday Night Spin” party on April 29. Hughes and Eldridge said they were discouraged from donating by polling data. Some early polls showed the anti-gay side with a double-digit lead in the state. The couple said they instead favored contributing to fights over state ballot measures with better prospects for the pro-gay side, such as in Washington State or Maine.
But recent polls show momentum turning against Amendment One. Data published last week by Public Policy Polling found only 54 percent of voters in the state plan to vote for it, while 40 percent are opposed to the measure. That’s the lowest level of support for the measure that PPP has found in polling since last October.
Adam Bink, director of online programs for the Courage Campaign and an organizer for grassroots efforts against Amendment One, criticized Hughes for failing to donate money to efforts opposing the amendment.
“The question is, will Chris give or won’t he,” Bink said. “It’s disappointing that he’s given up when, with polls the closest in history and an outpouring of support today online from people who work hard to make ends meet, he couldn’t be bothered to give.”
Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, responded to Hughes’ lack of contributions by more broadly calling on major donors to give to the campaign.
“With only days until the election, I am overwhelmed by the over 9,500 donors who have contributed over $2 million,” Kennedy said. “We are very close to having a fully funded campaign that can close the gap, and pull an upset by defeating Amendment One. I am hopeful that the major donors across the country who have yet to give will understand that their resources can make a difference and will help us get to the finish line.”
Hughes isn’t the only noteworthy gay entrepreneur who hasn’t donated money to the campaign against Amendment One. Mitchell Gold, co-founder of the furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, also hasn’t made a contribution; his company is based in Taylorsville, N.C. Gold declined to comment.
Major donations to the campaign against Amendment One include $200,000 from Jon Stryker, president and founder of Arcus Foundation. Dan Savage, a Seattle-based gay political pundit and sex advice columnist, gave $1,000.
According to the campaign, just under 10,000 donors in total have given so far. The average gift is less than $100 and donations have ranged from $5 to $250,000.
NOTE: This post has been updated.