Sunday, April 19, 2009

08-B wrapup, March 30 - April 19

I took a few weeks away from doing these updates, since there weren't any votes scheduled through the Easter season, but now the 08-B votes are starting to happen again. Here's a recap of the few votes that happened in the late March to early April time window, plus a few more that happened recently.

This update covers all 08-B votes that I know of that took place from March 30 through April 19.

Yes votes: 3
No votes: 3
No-to-yes flips: 0 out of a target 1 (if we count South Louisiana as a target flip)
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 3 out of 3

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 1
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality 3

Nasty surprises: 0
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 0
Annoyances: 3

Bruce's rating for the past three weeks of votes: "No surprises"

Fundamentally, the 6 votes of the past 3 weeks weren't very exciting: 3 previous "no" votes and 3 previous "yes" votes all voted the same way on 08-B this time around. The two areas of interest were San Jose Presbytery, which is traditionally hotly contested, and South Louisiana, where we had a long-shot opportunity to flip the presbytery from a previous "no" vote to a "yes" this year.

Several presbyteries fall into the "annoying" category this time around due to slight anti-LGBT percentage shifts, all of them at the 2-3% level. In Alaska and Long Island presbyteries this type of "probable statistical noise" doesn't matter quite as much, however in San Jose it does, since the votes in San Jose on LGBT equality overtures are traditionally fairly close. More on San Jose below, under its vote breakdown.

You'll notice that I have no "slightly positive" or "successes" sections below this time, since these 6 votes really don't fall into those categories. If we had picked up a pro-LGBT percentage shift in Alaska or San Jose then I'd count those as "slightly positive", but since we had some backsliding, they get listed as "annoying".


2001-2 01-A: 15 yes, 24 no --> 38.5% YES
2009 08-B: 12 yes, 21 no --> 36.4% YES (-2.1%)

With total vote counts this low, it's hard to derive much meaning from a 3-vote decline for both the "yes" and "no" votes when we compare 2001-2 to 2009. Still, I'd prefer to see a pro-LGBT shift into the low-40% level support rather than the 2% decline down to 36% that we actually see.

Long Island
2001-2 01-A: 87 yes, 28 no --> 75.7% YES
2009 08-B: 78 yes, 29 no --> 72.9% YES (-2.8%)

Long Island isn't in any danger of flipping its vote to "no", so I'm not particularly bothered by a 2.8% anti-LGBT shift, however given that the "no" voters were able to increase their total by 1 vote when compared to the 2001-2 voting, it would have been nice to see the "yes" vote count for 2009 come in at the 2001-2 levels of 87 votes.

San Jose
2001-2 01-A: 85 yes, 75 no --> 53.1% YES
2009 08-B: 84 yes, 81 no --> 50.9% YES (-2.2%)

I should note here that although I'm in San Jose presbytery, I didn't do the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) work for this presbytery -- that was handled here by a very dedicated team of LGBT equality supporters who did a large amount of phone calling and people-tracking well in advance of the presbytery meeting. I won't list names here since I don't know who wants to be mentioned and who would rather stay anonymous, however if you were at the More Light dinner at General Assembly in 2008, it's safe to say that you've likely met several members of this team. And it's good that they worked hard on the 08-B GOTV, since the anti-equality forces pulled out all the stops and increased their "no" vote count to 81 from the previous level of 75.

San Jose presbytery is both an interesting and annoying exercise in swing-presbytery demographics. A lot of people look up the city on the map and assume, based on San Jose's rough proximity to San Francisco, that San Jose presbytery must be a regular shoo-in for "yes" votes on equality. The reality, of course, is that the presbytery extends WAY down south beyond San Jose, presumably adding plenty of what we might call "non-San Francisco demographic territory" along the way.

This year there were a few interesting wrinkles in the San Jose Presbytery 08-B voting process. As is often the case, the presbytery scheduled a "let's dialogue about this overture" event, which in past years was often held as part of the presbytery meeting at which the vote was taking. This year, however, the dialogue event was held a month prior to the vote, as a single-subject optional Saturday event which was not a presbytery meeting. The result was the usual for these sorts of non-mandatory events: 08-B supporters showed up in droves ready to dialogue and advocate for equality, and the anti-LGBT presbyterians stayed home. Perhaps others might like to take this as an object lesson in how NOT to conduct a discussion about LGBT equality issues. There's been a lot of naive conflict-resolution fluff in the PCUSA over at least the past 10 years which has fabricated a narrative something like this: "the problem is that LIBERALS and CONSERVATIVES disagree with each other, and all we need to do to resolve this problem is get them to SIT DOWN and TALK to each other. We SENSIBLE MODERATES, who are the ones who actually have our wits about us, will help them to REASON out their differences and reach a COMPROMISE, thus solving the problem." This false narrative ignores the real source of the problem, which is the prejudice (and prejudice, by definition, is not grounded in reason) that needs to be exorcised from the denomination. It ignores the fact that you don't compromise on core principles (q.v. Gandhi), and human equality is a Jesus-grounded core principle. The narrative also ignores the fact that the anti-LGBT faction of the denomination has a long tradition of filing church lawsuits against any LGBT person who dares to come out at these sorts of meetings. We might refer to that as the "bring an assault rifle to the negotiating table" school of regressive politics.

The other "interesting" development with the San Jose presbytery voting was the equalization rule applied to the Yes and No speakers prior to the vote at the meeting. The original speaking structure, agreed to in advance, was to cap the number of "yes" and the number of "no" speakers at 12 each, for a total of 24 speakers maximum. However at the actual presbytery meeting, the anti-08B side couldn't muster 12 speakers -- they could only come up with about 8 people willing to speak against. (I don't have this precise number, however the point of this anecdote holds regardless.) The yes-on-08B team was then forced to REDUCE its speaker count down from 12 speakers to a smaller matching number, in the interests of "fairness". Frankly, that process doesn't meet with my concept of "fair" -- it seems to me that if one side can't get its act together enough to assemble 12 speakers, then they should speak with the people they've got, and the team that did have its act together gets to play with a full team of 12.

So at the end of the day, to get back to the actual vote count, we end up with a 2% anti-LGBT shift, taking us down to a nailbiter 84 yes, 81 no vote. We any luck, we in the More Light contingent can draw the line in the sand at this point, since another 2% anti-LGBT shift will of course flip the presbytery into the "no" category. Such a yes-to-no flip would fundamentally be pretty stupid, since despite recent anti-marriage ballot measures in California, the state as a whole is shifting pro-LGBT.


Atlantic Korean-American
2001-2 01-A: 0 yes, 32 no --> 0% YES
2009 08-B: 0 yes, 18 no --> 0% YES

Here's one of the several non-geographic Korean presbyteries doing its thing. These presbyteries pretty much always vote close to 100% anti-equality, so this vote is no surprise, though it is somewhat interesting to see that this was apparently a presbytery meeting with only 18 attendees.

Northern NY
2001-2 01-A: 42 yes, 19 no --> 68.9% YES
2009 08-B: Voice vote "yes"

Northern New York gets a "neutral" due to the voice vote, which means that we can't do any statistical comparisons. This is a "safe yes" presbytery, so there are no concerns here.

South Louisiana
2001-2 01-A: 51 yes, 71 no --> 41.8% YES
2009 08-B: 42 yes, 55 no --> 43.3% YES (+1.5%)

South Louisiana is an interesting problem in categorization. There was a team of people working very hard to try to get this presbytery to flip to "yes", so they might call this one "annoying" or "painful". On the other hand, the vote did shift +1.5% pro-LGBT, so maybe I should list it as "slightly positive". Here I decided to split the difference and let these two lines of thinking cancel each other out, so I've listed South Louisiana as "neutral". Every percentage point in the pro-LGBT direction moves us that much closer to flipping the presbytery to pro-equality in the future.