HUTCHERSON AND SIMS Bickering like an old married couple. Adam l. Weintraub|Annie Marie Musselman

Pastor Ken Hutcherson is black. His wife is white. This used to be illegal.

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents," a Virginia trial judge wrote in 1959 when he ordered an interracial couple to leave the state. "And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix." In 1967, however, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the Virginia law, making marriages like Hutcherson's possible.

Interestingly enough, Hutcherson himself is now battling "a few rebellious, headstrong" courts for trying to change marriage laws. Hutcherson founded the Mayday for Marriage movement, which drew 20,000 anti-gay-marriage activists to Safeco Field in May 2004. He then organized a follow-up with Focus on the Family's James Dobson and the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins in 2005 that drew 200,000. When asked whether his current high-profile stance against legalizing gay marriage is a little hypocritical, Hutcherson insists that there's a fundamental difference between civil rights and gay rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court was right to overturn the Virginia law barring interracial marriage, Hutcherson says, because the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that blacks have the same rights as whites. There's nothing in the Constitution, he argues, that gives gay couples the same rights as straight couples. Banning gay marriage, he says, is not discrimination. "I can't marry a man, and a homosexual can't marry a man. Everybody is treated the same under current law."

So what is Hutcherson's argument against gay marriage? Gay marriage, he says, goes against the Bible. "As Christians, we believe that homosexuality is simply a sin issue and that God does not condone it and neither will we. Do we believe that the Bible is the word of God or not?"

Wait a minute? "God does not condone it"? Wasn't that the Virginia cracker's argument against interracial marriage?

"You think I'm going to trust a Southern judge to tell me what God says about my rights?" Hutcherson—who grew up in Alabama—booms. This is Hutcherson's rhetorical trump card when getting interviewed by white reporters like me. Hutcherson's point is that Southern judges and lawmakers were overtly racist and their reading of the Bible was politically suspect. It's insulting to African-American history, he says, to make comparisons between the African-American civil rights movement and the gay rights movement.

Enter the highest-ranking elected African-American leader in the state, King County Executive Ron Sims. Not only does Sims draw analogies between the '60s civil rights movement and today's gay rights movement, he put the analogy into action in March 2004. Casting himself as the mirror image of George Wallace, Sims stood in the King County Courthouse doorway and swung the door open so that nine gay couples could walk in and apply for marriage licenses. Thus Sims jumpstarted the lawsuit, currently pending before the Washington State Supreme Court, that seeks to overturn the 1995 Defense of Marriage Act, by citing the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

It's worth noting that Sims is an ordained minister in the Baptist Church, which opposes gay marriage—and so his activism on gay marriage is potent.

Hutcherson is active on the gay marriage issue too. In addition to organizing the Mayday for Marriage rallies, he has publicly sparred with Microsoft over Washington State's gay civil rights bill. He successfully bullied the software giant out of supporting the bill in 2005, and has threatened economic sanctions against Microsoft for supporting the bill this year.

On a dare from The Stranger, the two leaders will debate gay marriage and gay rights face to face. KING 5 reporter Robert Mak has agreed to moderate the showdown at Town Hall.

josh@thestranger.com