Is this the man who made Microsoft quiver?

Bill Gates has said he's surprised by the "visibility" that his company's flip-flop on gay rights is getting. Shine that flashlight right over here, Dr. Hutcherson.

Published May 2, 2005 12:45PM (EDT)

Bill Gates said the other day that he was surprised by the visibility that Microsoft's flip-flop on gay rights was getting. Now he can be surprised that it isn't going away. The press coverage has continued and spread; local business sections that missed the story the first time around are starting to pick it up, and today both the New York Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer offer up profiles of the evangelical minister who claims to be responsible for forcing Microsoft to go soft on a Washington state gay rights bill.

Although Microsoft says that it decided to switch from supporting the bill to being neutral on it before a company official first met with the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, the circumstantial evidence and Hutcherson himself all suggest otherwise. Asked if he thought that he alone could have changed the position of the world's largest software company, Hutcherson told the Times: "I don't think. I know. If I got God on my side, what's a Microsoft? What's a Microsoft? It's nothing."

Microsoft has been accused of a certain hubris over the years, but it's got nothing on Hutcherson. The former NFL linkebacker tells the Times: "I want to be to Christianity what Gretzky was to hockey, what Beckham is to soccer, what Jordan was to basketball, what Martin Luther King was to African-American rights, what the Pope was to Poland. I want to be that to Christianity."

To be a real Christian, Hutcherson tells the Post-Intelligencer, you've got to oppose gay marriage. Those who don't are "evangelly-fish," he says, because they lack a "spiritual backbone."

Activists for gay rights tried to attend Hutcherson's services in Redmond, Wash., Sunday, but some were forced to remove rainbow-colored wristbands and sit in an area separate from the church's usual worshippers. "When you're in the battle, it's not time for 'nice,'" Hutcherson says. "It's time to win."

A spokesman for Microsoft apparently felt the need to distance itself from the good reverend. "We respect Dr. Hutcherson's right to his beliefs and opinions," Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray told the Times, "but he does not speak for Microsoft, and he certainly does not set Microsoft's legislative agenda."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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