Jeff Bezos’ Ex Steers $1.7B to LGBTQ Rights, Racial Justice, Gender Equity

MacKenzie Scott, seen here in 2018 with her then-husband Jeff Bezos, has pledged to disburse more than half of her fortune of more than $40 billion.
Reuters/ Danny Moloshok

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MacKenzie Scott, the wealthy ex-wife of super-rich Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated $1.7 billion across 116 non-profit organizations dedicated to LGBTQ rights, racial justice, gender equity, climate change, and other areas of concern as part of the beginning stages of her pledge to donate the majority of her wealth “back to the society that helped generate it.”

Scott raked in nearly $40 billion as part of a divorce settlement with Bezos last year that left her with a quarter of the couple’s stake in Amazon. Now the ex-wife of the e-commerce mogul — and Washington Post owner — wants to redistribute most of that wealth into the community.

Scott said that $46 million of her first wave of donations were directed to LGBTQ organizations, $586 million to groups focused on racial equity, $133 million to gender equity non-profits, $125 million to climate change groups, and the rest distributed among organizations focused on economic mobility, “empathy and bridging divides,” public health, global development, and “functional democracy.”

Among the LGBTQ organizations that benefitted from her donations included the Fund for Trans Generations, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the International Trans Fund, the Transgender Law Center, the Trevor Project, SAGE, and PFLAG National. Other groups included Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black Girls CODE, Harlem Children’s Zone’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery, Latino Justice, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Congress of American Indians.

That list also included some more puzzling benefactors, however, such as the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

“Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror,” Scott said in a note she posted on Medium.com. “Life will never stop finding fresh ways to expose inequities in our systems; or waking us up to the fact that a civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust, but also unstable. What fills me with hope is the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer. Opportunities that flowed from the mere chance of skin color, sexual orientation, gender, or zip code may have yielded resources that can be powerful levers for change.”

Scott said she came up with the list of organizations after asking a team of non-profit advisors “with key representation from historically marginalized race, gender, and sexual identity groups” to assist her in determining where to direct the funds.

Scott noted that 91 percent of the organizations on the list that are dedicated to racial equality are led by people of color, while 100 percent of the LGBTQ groups are run by queer people and 83 percent of the gender equity groups are women-led.

“I gave each a contribution and encouraged them to spend it on whatever they believe best serves their efforts,” Scott wrote. “Unless organization leadership requested otherwise, all commitments were paid up front and left unrestricted to provide them with maximum flexibility.”

A specific monetary breakdown of donations to each organization was not disclosed.

Responding to the inclusion of PFLAG in the groups that benefit, Brian Bond, executive director of PFLAG National, in a written statement, said, “Between the pandemic and years of being hit hard by dangerous and damaging anti-LGBTQ+ policies at the local, state, and federal level, families and our LGBTQ+ loved ones have depended on PFLAG, perhaps more than ever. PFLAG National is grateful to MacKenzie Scott for her generosity, which will help strengthen our infrastructure, grow our staff, and build new programs that will bring new allies along to the fight for LGBTQ+ affirmation and equality.”

In a Facebook post, Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, wrote, “So proud that MacKenzie Scott (formerly Bezos) has chosen to make a major philanthropic investment in SAGE’s work with and on behalf of LGBT elders! We’re in inspiring company with 115 other organizations working for racial, economic, and LGBTQ justice and so much more. This visionary support will result in game-changing progress for our elders!

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