Wealthy Young Gay Couple Donates $100K to Support Gay Marriage in Maine
Chris Hughes and his partner Sean Eldridge pledged $100,00 to Mainers United for Marriage in order to help pass a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, the Maine newspaper, the Kennebec Journal, reported.
Hughes, 28, is one of the founders of Facebook and ran the online organization for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. In March he became the new owner of the venerable political magazine the New Republic and appointed himself as publisher and editor-in-chief. He plans to jumpstart the publication by distributing its content through Apple's iPad.
Hughes was a roommate with Facebook's leader Mark Zuckerberg when they attended Harvard. After helping him start the social media website, Hughes joined Obama's team and helped create his online presidential campaign. While doing so, Fast Company magazine published a story on Hughes with the headline, "The Kid Who Made Obama President; How Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes Unleashed Barack's Base - and Changed Politics and Marketing Forever.'"
Eldridge, 25, is Hughes' fiancé, an investor, political activist and president of Hudson River Ventures.
"Voters in Maine have a historic opportunity to win marriage at the ballot in November," Eldridge said. "We are encouraged by strong statewide support for the initiative and the top-notch campaign team that's in place, and we hope that our support will motivate others to invest in the campaign," he continued. "With numerous marriage-equality cases heading to the Supreme Court, there is nothing more important than growing momentum and winning the freedom to marry in more states."
Hughes left Facebook in 2007 and Forbes estimated his worth at a whopping $700 million, the New York Times points out. After working on Obama's campaign in 2008, the blond, young and handsome entrepreneur moved to New York and, along with Eldridge, became a powerful force within political circles. The two men are enthusiastic fund-raisers for "progressive issues they support, which include gay civil rights," the Times notes.
The couple owns a 4,000-square-foot loft with 12-foot ceilings in the hip Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo. At their chic home, Hughes and Eldridge have hosted events and have welcomed political leaders, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others.
"In a short period of time, Sean and Chris have had a big impact on the political life of New York," said Richard Socarides, a Democratic political strategist and former White House aide during the Clinton administration. "They are very generous with their money and time. They are young, rich, smart and good-looking. It's a pretty powerful combination."
Although the couple is fond of New York, as they own a large estate in Garrison, N.Y., a quiet town 50 miles from the city, Hughes and Eldridge are focusing their efforts up north in hopes that Maine becomes the next state to recognize marriage equality.
In 2009, Maine voters repealed a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage. Supporters and opposers of the issue spent a combination of $9.6 million to persuade voters. The Kennebec Journal points out it is expected both sides will shell out the same amount during this year's campaign.
"This matching gift challenge is critical to raising the early resources we need for our campaign," said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United.
But those against the legalization of gay marriage are confident that Maine voters will vote to keep marriage defined as between one man and one woman.
"The events in North Carolina are going to help significantly," said Bob Emrich, campaign manager of the Protect Marriage Maine PAC, which is the leading opposition group. "It shows the momentum has not changed. People will see it as a worthwhile investment."
Although Maine does not recognize marriage between same-sex couples, the state does recognize domestic partnerships. Additionally, the Pine Tree State also recognizes civil unions marriages that were performed in other states.