Only a week after signing onto a New York Times ad, titled No Mob Veto, decrying grassroots demonstrations against the passage of Proposition 8 – the California constitutional amendment approved by a slim majority of voters that restricts marriage to heterosexual partners – as mob “intimidation,” Richard Cizik, a top official for the National Association of Evangelicals, has resigned.

Members of this own group had asked Cizik to step down after he signaled that he was “shifting” towards acceptance of gay marriage.

In a Dec. 2 interview on National Public Radio's Fresh Air show with Terry Gross, Cizik confirmed his shifting views on gay unions.

“Two years ago,” Gross asked, “you said you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more and more with the younger voters and their priorities, have you changed on gay marriage?”

“I'm shifting, I have to admit,” Cizik responded. “In other words, I would willingly say I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think.”

The Rev. Richard Cizik has represented the NAE for 28 years as vice president for governmental affairs. The umbrella group represents 45,000 churches in 60 denominations.

Cizik also said he agreed with President-elect Barack Obama that abortion rates need to be lowered. Most evangelicals advocate for the criminalization of all abortion procedures.

In a statement released Thursday, Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, said Cizik's responses “did not appropriately represent the values and convictions of NAE and our constituents. Although he has subsequently expressed regret, apologized and affirmed our values there is a loss of trust in his credibility as spokesperson among leaders and constituents.”

Gay groups applauded Cizik's move. “We applaud Rich Cizik for opening his mind and speaking from his heart,” Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen said in a statement. “It would have been easier for Cizik to have remained silent and continue collecting a paycheck. Instead he did what he thought was right and one can only admire such courage.”

This is high praise indeed, coming from Besen, whose group ran an ad that same day singling out Cizik for signing onto the No Mob Veto ad.

In the gay response ad, titled Lying Is Wrong and running in the Salt Lake Tribune, Besen called the leaders of the No Mob Veto ad hypocritical liars.

“Activists like Colson, Cizik and Donohue must decide if they are 'people of faith' or 'people of fibs' – they can't be both. Lying is wrong, especially when it's done in the name of God,” the ad says.

“Cizik's evolution on this issue shows that we should never make blanket assumptions that individual evangelical Christians don't support fairness and equality,” Besen said. “I call on more fair-minded evangelicals to speak out in the name of equality and fairness for gay and lesbian people, as this courageous man has done.”