Monthly Archives: November 2009

House’s health care bill brings (some) equality for gays.

Those who aren’t gay probably don’t realize that one of the inequalities between gay couples and straight couples has to do with health insurance.  While this has been slowly changing, for the most part gay couples cannot be on each other’s health insurance without a financial penalty.  When I first started teaching in the NYC Department of Education, Christian and I got a domestic partnership from the city so that he could be on my health insurance, which also had dental and vision.  Unfortunately, though, the “extra” benefit was taxed as if it were extra income.  The extra tax we had to pay was more than if Christian was on his own health insurance … a lot more.  This doesn’t happen for straight married couples as the government sees them as a “family” and gay couples … well, are not.  Straight couples who are on one spouse’s health insurance do not get taxed in the same what that Christian and I – and thousands of other gay couples – did.

Last night, the House passed their health care reform bill and:

Supporters of gay rights have long been trying to change the tax treatment of health benefits provided by employers to the domestic partners of their employees. In effect, such benefits are now treated as taxable income for the employee, and the employer may owe payroll taxes on their fair-market value.

Under the bill, such benefits would be tax-free, just like health benefits provided to the family of an employee married to a person of the opposite sex.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who proposed the change, said it would “correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans.”

Joseph R. Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said federal tax law had not kept up with changes in the workplace.

“I meet people all the time who are gratified they work for companies that offer domestic partner benefits,” he said. “But they pass on the benefits because they cannot afford the taxes that go with the benefits.”

M. V. Lee Badgett, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said employees with domestic partner benefits paid $1,100 a year more in taxes, on average, than married employees with the same coverage.  (New York Times, 11/08/2009)

This is a small step forward.  Lately, I’ve been rather pissed off at Obama and the Democrats.  They take our campaign contributions and our votes and keep telling us that it’s just not the right time for equality.  This isn’t full equality, but it gives me a little faith in Democrats.  Too bad it is a small thing buried in a big bill.  They don’t have to go too far out on a limb with this one since the Republicans will have more than enough to cry foul with.  This provision will be ignored.

I’m happy for equality, but I’m not happy that my equality is happening in such small steps and in ways that are not public.  It feels like fighting for my equality is something the Democrats are ashamed of.

Gotta get rid of those carrots … Carrot cake, it is!

Christian and I belong to a CSA.  For those uneducated few who don’t know what that is (please visualize dramatic eye roll and head-shaking here), a CSA is Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, you buy a share in a farm and every week you get a share of their harvest.  It’s pretty cool and can be fun – except for when Christian cooks the brussels sprouts which he’s doing now (ew, gross).  We get a lot of vegetables so we are more likely to eat them and we get to try new things.  Celeriac is a good example.  Kohlrabi is another.

IMG_1431

The down side is that sometimes you get a few weeks in a row where you get a lot of one thing.  This month: carrots.  I don’t like raw carrots and will only tolerate cooked ones.  But, there are only so many carrots one (meaning ‘I’) can eat.  So, I put my baker’s apron on and made a carrot cake last night.  (Alton Brown recipe here.  I don’t much like his show, but his recipes are really good.)

It was easy to make.  I was originally not looking forward to grating the carrots until I remembered that Christian brought a fancy food processor into the relationship.  I whipped that out and grating the carrots was a snap.  The rest of the recipe is pretty standard and not all that difficult.  Earlier in the day, I went to the baking supply store in Manhattan and got some silicone baking dishes – a loaf pan and a round cake pan.  I used the round cake pan to make the cake and it worked incredibly well.  If you’ve never tried silicone bakeware, you really need to.

Icing is not my forte.  I’m going to have to take a cake class, because I don’t know how to frost the side of a cake.  What usually happens is that the sides get all crumbly and then show up in the frosting.  Considering that a carrot cake has white (cream cheese) frosting and the cake is relatively dark, it doesn’t look perfect.  But, I take a deep breath.  Christian and I immediately cut into the cake (after Christian took a thousand pictures, that is).  At first I wasn’t impressed.  The cream cheese frosting was really strong.  But, we had another piece this afternoon and I don’t know what happened, but it tastes great now.  Good spices and you can barely tell there’s carrots in it!

Now I just have to find a recipe for cabbage cake.

Must Read: Storytelling in the 21st Century

I happened upon “We Tell Stories” a project run by Penguin Books.  It is a collection of the retellings of six classic stories by contemporary authors.  The novel thing about this project is that the stories are told using various 21st Century web and social networking applications.  For instance, the retelling of Alice in Wonderland is done in a blog.  Another story uses online maps to tell the story.  In another, you progress through the story by pressing various links and making decisions.

This is a great exploration of what it means to tell a story in modern times.  It would be an interesting project to read the original classic with students and then the retelling on the site and talk about the difference.

I haven’t gotten through all of the stories yet, but I think I’ve found yet another thing to distract me from writing my dissertation proposal!

Today in WTF?: High school teacher suspended after assigning an article on homosexuality in animals

A high school teacher in Illinois has been suspended because he assigned his 10th and 12th grade Honors students to read an article about homosexuality in animals. The teacher, Mr. Delong (no snickering, please), has the support of his students who have started a Facebook group in support of him.

It’s a sad day when high school students outweigh adults in common sense.  Seriously?  He assigned an article to read … about animals.  I can’t imagine the rationale behind this at all.  I’ve read multiple articles on the situation and can’t find anywhere why he was suspended.  I mean, beside wholesale ignorance and stupidity.

One wonders if the people who suspended him have friended Sarah Palin on their Facebook pages.  No doubt they have.  Ignorance attracts ignorance.

I do have to say that I think this is a good reminder of how divergent views on gay rights are in this country.  There are many people (I’m talking about you, Joe the Plumber) who still think all gays are pedophiles.  And, then you have whole states like Maine, who (hopefully) will be approving marriage equality tomorrow.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised … there are still ignorant fools who don’t want Obama to be president based solely on the color of his skin.  I wonder if prejudice ever dies … or does it just get smaller and smaller, but never goes away completely.

Halloween 2009: The Night of the Living Dead

pumpkinEvery Halloween I try to convince Christian to watch a scary movie with me.  Last year we watched “Poltergeist” and he said it wasn’t scary at all.  I kind of remember him squealing at some points, so I don’t think he remembers the movie completely.

I geared up all month thinking about the best scary movie.  He doesn’t like gore and would really object to “Saw” and any such movie.  I don’t like the torture movies much, either.  So, last night I searched the online TV schedule and was surprised to find that there were few scary movies on Halloween night.  But, AMC was playing a remastered version of “Night of the Living Dead” over and over again all day, so we decided to watch that.  I’ve never seen the whole thing and since it was made like 40 years ago, I figured Christian could handle the scariness.

Overall, we liked the movie a lot.  I’m a big fan of zombie movies and it was good to see “the original” (even though, I read online that there had been zombie movies before Romero’s).  It was a good character study of what happens to people in crises, rather than a gore-fest.  Although, near the end it does get a little graphic and I had to keep Christian from covering his eyes.  I mean, it’s in black and white and those intestines that zombie was eating were so obviously fake!  I was shocked at how gory and graphic it did get at the end – I didn’t expect that at all.

Christian said that if there are zombies in the country he didn’t want to move there.  I told him not to worry, that there were plenty of zombie movies that take place in cities.  He didn’t like that.  I didn’t hear any screaming at night, so I don’t think he had any zombie nightmares.  Maybe next year ….

The rest of the night was nice.  We had trick-or-treaters, but not as many as in years past.  There were several Supermans and a couple of Spidermans.  I don’t know where all the Batmans were.  I was disappointed.  That kid would have gotten a lot of candy from me.  So, we do have a lot of candy left, but I was smart enough to buy candy that I hate so that I don’t sit around and eat candy all weekend.