Prior to the 2012 elections, proponents of traditional marriage had 32 consecutive state victories when it came to banning same-sex marriage. But this November four states – albeit four that lean left – ended that streak by voting to approve same-sex marriage in some fashion. Those defeats have also led to some internal strife within the pro-family movement.
Voters in Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Washington State voted for same-sex marriage by a small margin. With losses come disappointment and some within the leadership ranks of pastors have expressed frustration and levied harsh criticism over how the campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage were orchestrated.
Pastor Ken Hutcherson, who leads a mixed race congregation at Antioch Bible Church in Washington State has been on the frontlines on the battle to protect traditional marriage for many years. The controversial and outspoken former professional football star has had to become as thick-skinned in the marriage fight as he was hard-nosed on the gridiron. He is disappointed not only in the outcome of the vote in his state, but also how the campaign was conducted.
Now Hutcherson is throwing criticism back on others such as the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family for not being as inclusive and lying down on the fight to protect marriage.
"Initially we had a strong group of people fighting for marriage in Washington [State]. We were unified and it looked like beating our opponents was going to be a cakewalk," Hutcherson told The Christian Post a few days after the election.
"Then these national organizations came into the state and said I was too 'controversial,' and that I should take a back seat. They just waltzed in and stabbed us in the back by first caving in on domestic partnerships and then on marriage. And I lay some of the blame on our legislators for taking their 30 pieces of silver and backing away from the fight. I blame the large churches who were afraid to preach the Bible."
Hutcherson's comments went even further, going as far as to accuse some of the outside leadership of racism, and felt they were excluding him because he was African-American.
"When I knew my involvement was going to generate controversy, I offered to step back and suggested others who were on the frontlines do so as well for the sake of unity. They refused, leaving me as the odd man out. If you look at them, they were all the same color with the same moderate views. It just didn't make sense why they would not include a person of color who was willing to fight."
"I believe there are conservatives of all colors, but the leadership from NOM, Focus and Mission Public Affairs, wanted to run being a moderate campaign where everyone felt warm and fuzzy. But we know that sin is never satisfied and always wants more. These guys just looked and acted too much like the GOP – old and white."
But Brian Brown, NOM president, says such criticism is unfounded.
"That is simply not true," he told CP. "Pastor Hutcherson wanted to work on an initiative and not a referendum which we thought was the best method.
Brown also called Hutcherson's comment "absurd and reckless," and that he never heard any complaints from the Washington pastor. He also pointed to others such as Maryland's Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. who is also black and was out front in his state's effort to overturn a new state law.
"In the body of Christ I think if we have differences they need to be aired out between us and not in the public arena."
Tom Minnery with Focus on the Family issued a similar response in an email to CP.
"We would have hoped that Pastor Hutcherson would have brought something like this to us directly, but we haven't from him so we can't respond. Over the years the state campaigns to preserve marriage have been characterized by ethnic and racially diverse support, and that includes Washington."
But issues of racism and inclusion aside, Hutcherson is more upset that the churches did not stand up and defend traditional marriage.
"Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill would not come out and take a solid stand against gay marriage," Hutcherson said. Neither would the Mike Howerton at Overlake Christian Church and others in the area. "Now these pastors who laid down on the issue are going to be faced with having to marry people in the church who are violating God's law."
When asked if he would perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, Hutcherson was quick to answer. "No, I will not. I will not do nothing against the Word of God."
Brown has been front and center in the fight to protect traditional marriage. Some may think he and others who stood for traditional marriage find themselves paralyzed by defeat, but Brown says there is still much work to be done and in retrospect, the 2012 losses will not end the fight for pro-family advocates.
"We're going to have a ton on our plate in the coming months," Brown told The Christian Post earlier this week as he reflected on the election. "If you examine the numbers, we outperformed the GOP vote on Election Day. The myth the public is shifting in their attitude and acceptance of gay marriage – that's simply not true."
Competing polls within the last week have argued over whether a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, but Brown is emphatic that Americans are still more supportive of marriage between and man and a woman.
As is the case with most elections, the losses this year taught Brown and others some valuable lessons, one of which is you can't go into a battle underfunded and with smaller weapons.
"In almost every state, we were outspent nearly 10 to 1," he said. "We didn't have a Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos or a Michael Bloomberg to rely on for six and seven figure donations. What Christians need to understand is the issue of marriage is not an automatic win without the proper resources. We still have to buy ads, hire people and run a campaign, all of which involve hard dollars."
Gay marriage advocates are already working on states such as Ohio, Indiana, Delaware, Illinois and Rhode Island to change and redefine marriage laws. They notably have the support of the White House. Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in May.