By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
More than 40 percent of presbyteries, or regional governing bodies, have voted on the change as of Friday. While there’s no official count yet, advocacy groups on both sides put the vote at 51 presbyteries in favor of allowing gay marriage and 23 against. [As of 2/23/15, the vote is 61-23] Voting continues into the spring, with a majority of the 172 presbyteries needed for ratification.
The presbyteries are voting on a constitutional change endorsed in June by the denomination’s General Assembly in Detroit. It would define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people” rather than specifically between a “man and a woman.”
While some denominations allow for same-sex unions or local discretion in responding to requests for same-sex weddings, the Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterian Church (USA) would become the largest to write the change into its governing documents.
The effect would be somewhat anti-climactic in states such as Pennsylvania, because the Detroit assembly also authorized pastors to preside at same-sex weddings in jurisdictions where they are legal. That measure didn’t require presbytery ratification.
Both measures also give pastors and churches the option not to participate in same-sex marriages.
The vote especially reverberates in the Tri-State area with its significant concentration of Presbyterians. More than 87,000 people are members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in seven presbyteries in and around Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Presbytery hasn’t voted yet, but several area presbyteries have voted against redefining marriage, including Beaver-Butler, Shenango, Kiskiminetas and Redstone in Pennsylvania as well as Upper Ohio Valley in West Virginia and Ohio. Results are mixed elsewhere in Pennsylvania.