New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 to the campaign to pass the marriage equality referendum in Maryland, making him the largest individual donor to date in the effort to uphold the new law.
The mayor announced his donation Friday morning in an email to supporters of the referendum, known as Question 6, according to The New York Times. His contribution followed discussions with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who pushed for the legislation and has traveled outside his state, including a visit to New York City last month, to raise money for the referendum campaign.
"I do not believe that government has any business telling one class of couples that they cannot marry," wrote Bloomberg in the e-mail. "The next great barrier to full equality under the law is marriage equality. There is no doubt in my mind this barrier will fall, just as so many others have."
Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican turned independent, lobbied for legislation that passed in New York last year and donated money to the four Republican senators who supported it, in addition to hosting a fundraiser that generated more than $1 million for their reelection bids. He has also supported efforts in New Hampshire, and last May, during his commencement speech at the University of North Carolina, he criticized the passage of a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
The mayor ranked 10th on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans this year, with a net worth of $25 billion. His ties to Maryland include his undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is named for him.
Maryland could become the first state where voters approve marriage equality, which would reverse a long losing streak at the ballot. Maine, Minnesota and Washington also face marriage-related initiatives.
Governor O'Malley has repeatedly spoken about his concern that opponents could outspend advocates in the state, which unlike New York and Washington, lacks a prominent business coalition such as Wall Street or technology companies to support the effort. He told the Times that the contribution from Bloomberg is "certainly a big help to us," and he hoped it would encourage other donors to help the coalition, Marylanders for Marriage Equality.
"The fact that someone of Mayor Bloomberg's national stature and recognition would care about our referendum campaign for civil marriage equality, I think, tells people all over our country that this is a serious and real campaign," he said.