Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcome to the site

View 08-B voting results here.

This site provides vote-tracking information and some analysis and commentary on PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) proposed amendment 08-B, originally known as the Boston Ordination Equality Overture, which would remove the "don't ask, don't tell" anti-gay policy which is presently written into the PCUSA constitution. The anti-gay policy is section G-6.0106b of the Presbyterian Book of Order, so amendments like 08-B are often called "delete-b" amendments. Amendment 08-B is an LGBT equality overture which seeks to remove systemic discrimination from the official Presbyterian rulebook.

This web site also maintains a tracking and information spreadsheet about ongoing 08-B votes, which compares presbytery votes on the previous delete-b effort "01-A" in 2001-2, to presbytery votes on 08-B this year. To my knowledge, no other 08-B tracking site provides this sort of clear comparison of vote percentages.

For additional news about LGBT equality efforts within the PCUSA, see the More Light Presbyterians (MLP) web site. You can also read MLP's press release and announcement when 08-B was originally passed at the national (General Assembly) level.

This site is maintained by Bruce Hahne, a PCUSA member who lives in California. All notes and commentary posted here are my own, and this site is maintained independently of other organizations' web sites.

Monday, May 18, 2009

08-B vote wrapup, May 1-18

We've gone about half a month without an 08-B presbytery vote wrapup, which is probably good since it's given us some time to accumulate 10 new votes for everybody's perusal.


Yes votes: 6
No votes: 4
No-to-yes flips: 2 out of a target 3, plus Utah as "bonus flip".
Previous "yes" presbyteries held at "yes": 3 out of 3

Presbyteries shifting pro-equality: 7
Presbyteries shifting anti-equality: 3

Nasty surprises: 0
Amazingly positive surprises (unexpected flips): 1 (Utah)
Annoyances: 2

Bruce's rating for the week: "Excellent results"

Total presbytery "yes" votes so far: 77
Total presbytery "no" votes so far: 92

"Popular vote" totals of presbytery individual votes:
"Yes" popular vote: 10359 (49%)
"No" popular vote: 10791 (51%)

May has been a strong month for pro-equality efforts on 08-B so far, with two out of three target presbyteries flipped from "no" to "yes", a surprise win in Utah, two total blowout votes for "yes" with huge pro-equality shifts, and a strong pro-LGBT shift in Savannah which bodes well for the future. The ratio of pro-equality to anti-equality vote shifts isn't quite at the 3:1 ratio that I'd like to see, however that's pretty much due to the statistically insignificant slight negative vote shift in Kiskiminetas.

Before we dive into the individual votes, I wanted to step back for a moment and take a look at a few of the bigger-picture numbers. If we look at what I call the "popular vote" totals, by which I mean the number of actual human beings at presbytery meetings who voted either "yes" or "no" on 08-B, the count is almost exactly tied, at 49% "yes" and 51% "no". That's up from about 43% "yes", 57% "no" seven years ago. So we're not quite at a "1% pro-LGBT shift per year" rule of thumb, but we're close. The current 49%-51% split obviously says that we're at the tipping point -- in just a few years we'll be above 50% support in the presbytery popular vote, we can get rid of G6.0106b, and then start the healing process within the denomination to recover from years of institutionalized discrimination. The numbers also show, by the way, that years of pro-equality education and activism will continue to be necessary even after the denomination eliminates G6.0106b.

Another numeric point to note, which so far no news story that I'm aware of has covered, is that despite ongoing hand-wringing about denominational membership declines, the pro-equality portion of the PCUSA is growing numerically, if we use the presbytery popular vote counts as a guide. Here are the popular vote totals comparing 2001-2 to 2009, counting only presbyteries which have voted so far:

2001-2 YES votes: 10189
2009 YES votes: 10359 (+1.7%)

2001-2 NO votes: 13273
2009 NO votes: 10791 (-18.7%)

So despite the fact that the PCUSA as a denomination is shrinking by roughly 2% per year in its total membership, we see nearly a 2% INCREASE in the absolute "yes" vote count when we compare 2009 to 2001-2, while the total anti-equality votes saw nearly a 20% decline. The future of the PCUSA is clearly on the side of LGBT equality.

One final numerical tidbit, for those tracking the overall presbytery vote counts, is that it's now numerically impossible for the "no" vote count to break 100, as it did the last time around in 2001-2. We'll likely end up with a presbytery vote count of about 77 "yes" and 96 "no", which of course is much stronger than the lopsided vote count of 2001-2.

Still coming up this month, we have either 3 or 4 presbyteries still to vote, depending on whether we're to believe reports that Midwest Hanmi has no plans to vote on 08-B at all. The remaining presbyteries are Midwest Hanmi, Missouri River Valley, Noroeste, and Soroeste. Three of these four presbyteries are solidly in the "no" camp barring a highly unusual miracle -- sudden manifestations of angelic choirs singing hymns of praise to 08-B, that kind of thing -- while Missouri River Valley is a complete tossup and a "target flip" presbytery, having previously voted 49% yes / 51% no in 2001-2. So send some love to Missouri River Valley and to the More Light supporters doing the get-out-the-vote work -- let's see if this presbytery can become no-to-yes flip number 34.

Now let's dive into the individual presbytery votes to take a look. Thankfully, this time around I'm able to eliminate my "bad news" category, since we had no nasty surprises or unexpected yes-to-no flips. Now that I actually put these into categories, I see that this really has been a good month -- it's unusual to see 6 out of 10 presbytery votes categorized in the "successes" section.


2001-2 01-A: 1 yes, 20 no --> 5% YES
2009 08-B: 0 yes, unknown count no --> 0% YES (-5%)

For Dakota I don't even have the exact vote count, though I do have a report that claims it was "unanimous no". Essentially we can say that Dakota stayed steady in its anti-equality stance, though it would have been nice if the one person who voted "yes" in 2001-2 had been around in 2009 to again vote "yes" in 2009.

Middle Tennessee
2001-2 01-A: 95 yes, 118 no --> 44.6% YES
2009 08-B: 95 yes, 139 no --> 40.6% YES (-4.0%)

Given its previous pro-equality support of nearly 45%, Middle Tennessee was a "target to flip" presbytery, however we ended up with a 4% ANTI-equality shift compared to 2001-2. The numbers here are interesting -- note how the "yes" vote held at 95 votes in 2009, while the "no" vote count increased by 21 people. To me this suggests that the anti-equality side did some significant get-out-the-vote (GOTV) work to bring up their numbers. Perhaps the lesson here is the obvious one: anti-equality people can do GOTV too, and they may often have an untapped reservoir of "no" supporters who can be mobilized to attend the presbytery meeting and vote against equality. So as always, we can never take any presbytery for granted, particularly those in the 40% to 60% range of support.


2001-2 01-A: 35 yes, 76 no --> 31.5% YES
2009 08-B: 34 yes, 76 no --> 30.9% YES (-0.6%)

Kiskiminetas here comes in with a vote essentially identical to 2001-2. There's no change in the "no" vote count at all, and a loss of one vote on the "yes" side, giving us a statistically insignificant anti-equality shift.


Southern New England
2001-2 01-A: 109 yes, 72 no --> 60.2% YES
2009 08-B: 97 yes, 50 no --> 66.0% YES (+5.8%)

Here a decline of 12 votes on the "yes" side was thankfully overmatched by a decline of 22 votes on the "no" side, giving us a net positive vote percentage shift of about 6%. It would be nice to see if we can get that "yes" vote count above 100 the next time around, reversing the decline.


We have an interesting lineup of successes this time around. Two of them are successful no-to-yes flips, three of them I list here simply because of the huge percentage shifts, and then we have Utah as our surprise bonus no-to-yes flip.

2001-2 01-A: 99 yes, 100 no --> 49.7% YES
2009 08-B: 100 yes, 90 no --> 52.6% YES (+2.9%)

Pacific was an obvious "target flip" presbytery given its 2001-2 vote, and we did make it just over the "yes" tipping point, though not by a lot. Equality supporters were able to hold the "yes" vote count at the same level as 2001-2, while there was a 10% reduction (100 down to 90) in the "no" votes. Nice job in Pacific presbytery -- every no-to-yes flip is great news.

Minnesota Valleys
2001-2 01-A: 44 yes, 60 no --> 42.3% YES
2009 08-B: 44 yes, 37 no --> 54.3% YES (+12.0%)

The Minnesota Valleys vote looks something like an amplified version of Pacific: as in Pacific, equality supporters held the "yes" vote count at 2001-2 levels, while in this case the "no" vote collapsed compared to 2001-2, giving us a large 12% pro-equality shift and another no-to-yes flip. This is an example of a presbytery that we definitely can't take for granted in future years, since all that the "no" side needs to do is some extra get-out-the-vote work, and they'll likely bring the "no" vote count back up to some extent.

2001-2 01-A: 21 yes, 32 no --> 39.6% YES
2009 08-B: 28 yes, 25 no --> 52.8% YES (+13.2%)

Speaking as someone who presently lives in California, I must say that there's a strong sense of satisfaction to see Utah -- which of course was the source of much of the funding that bankrolled California anti-marriage Proposition 8 -- came out of nowhere to unexpectedly flip no-to-yes. "Yes" supporters increased their vote count by 33% (21 to 28), "no" votes declined by about 20% (32 to 25), and we end up with a no-to-yes flip. This is another example of a presbytery that we can't take for granted in the future, but of course it's fantastic to know that it's now competitive. Utah was a huge success for PCUSA equality this month, and a lot of work took place behind the scenes to make this no-to-yes flip happen. Very nice job here -- Utah really made my day when I heard this news.

East Iowa
2001-2 01-A: 78 yes, 69 no --> 53% YES
2009 08-B: 74 yes, 21 no --> 78% YES (+25%)

As a former Iowa resident (did I mention that I've moved around quite a bit?), I was biting my nails over whether we'd hold this presbytery at a "yes" vote. It turns out that I didn't need to worry -- this was a total blowout, with the "no" vote completely collapsing compared to 2001-2. I'd speculate that the recent rollout of marriage equality in Iowa probably played a psychological role in how the presbytery vote dynamics played out. Or maybe all of the potential "no" presbytery voters were out holding bake sales to raise money for a voter initiative to repeal marriage equality in Iowa, who knows.

Northern Waters
2001-2 01-A: 41 yes, 30 no --> 57.7% YES
2009 08-B: 53 yes, 11 no --> 82.8% YES (+25.1%)

Here's another blowout on the numbers -- the "yes" vote count in this case goes up by over 25% compared to 2001-2, the "no" vote collapses, and we end up with a 25% pro-LGBT vote shift. Nice job with the pro-equality GOTV in Northern Waters.

2001-2 01-A: 20 yes, 54 no --> 27.0% YES
2009 08-B: 29 yes, 38 no --> 43.3% YES (+16.3%)

Typically I don't put presbyteries that voted "no" into the "successes" section, however given this strong pro-LGBT vote shift in Savannah, I felt it was merited. Supporters increased the "yes" count by nearly 50% (20 to 29), the "no" votes are declining, and we end up with a "Seeking a Miracle" presbytery shifting into the "target to flip next time" category. A 16% pro-equality shift from a presbytery previously at only 27% support is fantastic.


As always, many thanks to all the More Light supporters working in every presbytery to win hearts and minds for equality. It takes all of us, whether we're having conversations with people about equality, or sending in a contribution to MLP, or doing our More Light Sunday prep work, to shift the denomination towards the eventual (and obviously imminent) repeal of G6.0106b.