Tag Archives: washington

Out of the Dark: Emboldening Schools to Welcome Everyone

By Rick Oculto,
Education Coordinator at Our Family Coalition

8b68132b-157e-44b5-87e1-2ac91f7bbd5dOnly a few blocks from the White House is a building with giant glass windows. You can see right into the main meeting room from the street and every floor of the building is exposed to the light of the outside world. Even if you wanted to hide, it would be difficult. On the walkway to the entrance the ubiquitous blue and yellow equal sign hangs proudly from its façade. This is the national headquarters of the powerful LGBTQ rights machine known as the Human Rights Campaign. It is not ostentatious, but sleek, clean, and unapologetic… a marked difference from how the rest of the country is accustomed to talking about LGBTQ issues; under hushed whispers in the dark. In many places, gay is still a dirty word.

The week of Halloween, on the top floor of this building, on arguably the most exposed floor were about forty people from across the country dedicated to ensuring that LGBTQ youth and families never had to hide again. The irony of the impending holiday was not lost on me. The fact that many people in LGBTQ communities find solace in this holiday because it allows us to assume identities that are not always socially available to us also did not escape me. As trainers who have put ourselves on the frontlines of addressing issues of difference, we have encountered a great diversity of difficult situations. And now, we were charged with sharing the knowledge on how to do that; how to come out of the closet about our own experience, and how to create spaces that allowed others to do so. The task ahead would not be easy.

As a trainer, you never know what the participants will bring to a discussion. Many times it can lead to very deep and meaningful exchanges and sometimes the intersections of everyone’s identities crash into each other like a multi-car pileup on the freeway. When that happens, just like a freeway, everyone’s got to slow down to make sure we can all move forward together. If not, all traffic comes to a dead stop.

groupatFCT-1So, here we were eight floors above the ground in a glass room filled with eager minds and good intentions. Each face represented a story of struggle, and hardship, and tenacity to have come to this place to create and sustain inclusive spaces for everyone, but especially for those who have traditionally been unwelcome. And then it happens… as we go into examples of our communities, the inevitable and pernicious stereotypes about the threat each of our communities might pose comes to the forefront; first about gender, then about race. Everyone is on alert. The mood of the room went from jovial to urgent as representatives from each community plead their case for better understanding. Any amateur facilitator would have shied away, changed the subject, and inevitably hampered learning. We slowed it down and leaned into it. After all, we were here to help everyone better navigate identity, not ignore it. No one in the room was an amateur. We moved forward together.

The Human Rights Campaign has been criticized for its myopia and exclusivity, specifically on its actions around transgender issues and people of color. In recent years the organization has taken some initiative to address those shortfalls with some success. The Welcoming Schools Approach and the training of facilitators to address difference is part of the outcome of that effort. For the past five years Welcoming Schools has operated as a program of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation with the mission to make schools more welcoming of diverse families, inclusive of LGBTQ-issues, address biased based bullying, and to support transgender and gender expansive youth. It has been a labor of love that has grown and evolved as the national conversation on difference has taken center stage. It was formed out of the need for representation of LGBTQ individuals and families and has been tempered by the passing of Leelah Alcorn, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Seth Walsh, along with many other events. There has always been an undercurrent of liberation; knowing that the topics Welcoming Schools touched upon would thrust those issues uncomfortably into the light. The visceral experience of the aforementioned events further molded the conversation in ways that were more responsive and inclusive. Our Family Coalition, in conjunction with the other Welcoming Schools trainers, have been at the heart of this cathartic shift.

It was a long three days. There was laughter and tears and conversations that would have never have happened in the dark. The impact of Welcoming Schools had been constrained by a small and dedicated group of about ten people responsible for several regions around the country. After this 03f0b4a8-1985-4ef6-b0bb-a391540325d6training there were now thirty more. We have not found the panacea for the disparities we find among our communities because there is no one thing that will address the myriad of issues that impact our different identities. What we have found is a way to recognize, respect, and celebrate our differences without diminishing or excluding one another. With the inaugural facilitator training, these practices will have an even wider reach.

At the end of the week, with few hours to spare, I was able to take my traditional walk down the Washington Mall. Autumn in DC smelled differently than it did in San Francisco. I was joined by a colleague that would become a new trainer a continent’s length away in the Puget Sound area. We passed the White House with lines of children in Halloween costumes visiting the President and First Lady, passed the World War II Memorial and found ourselves at the reflection pool where only a little over fifty years earlier thousands upon thousands gathered together to recognize and affirm the humanity of our African-American brethren. A short while away stood the Lincoln Memorial lit up against the eastern dusk and we realized we were on the same path.

9462b4ce-5f04-4d9b-80b8-d83ab9b98ef9“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all [people] are created free and equal.”

–          Abraham Lincoln, July 10, 1858 Speech at Chicago, Illinois

What Domestic Partners Need to Know About Applying for Health Insurance Under Obamacare

Post by Shae Irving, legal editor and writer

Healthcare-Reform-Act-queeredWhen registered domestic partners or civil union partners apply for coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, there’s one question that almost always arises: Do we apply based on our separate incomes, or must we include all the income we make as a couple?

The answer depends on the state where you live.

States other than California, Nevada, or Washington. In almost all states, registered domestic partners or civil union partners who apply for insurance via the state’s health insurance exchange must do so separately. Each partner includes only his or her separate income, and this amount determines health plan costs and eligibility for cost-saving subsidies. It works this way because domestic partners are not considered married for federal tax purposes.

Gay marriage bandsCalifornia, Nevada, or Washington. The exception to the above rule is for the few states that extend community property laws to registered domestic partners — California, Nevada, and Washington. In these states, domestic partners must usually apply using half of the partners’ combined incomes. (We confirmed this with the legal department at Covered California after repeatedly receiving conflicting information from representatives staffing the exchange’s customer service phone line.) This is because IRS rules require that domestic partners registered in these community property states report half of their combined community income on their federal taxes each year.

Sometimes, this reporting requirement will have the unfortunate effect of rendering a lower-earning partner ineligible for health insurance subsidies.

Example: Caroline and Susan are registered domestic partners in California. Caroline makes $80,000 per year and Susan earns $30,000 per year. When they apply for health insurance at Covered California, they will complete separate applications but must each include $55,000 of community income (half of their combined community income of $110,000). Neither partner will qualify for premium-lowering subsidies, which are generally available for individuals earning less than about $46,000 per year. If Caroline and Susan were able to apply separately, Susan would have qualified for premium assistance in the form of tax credits.

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The only case in which domestic partners registered in community property states would not apply based on combined income is that in which the partners signed a valid pre-registration agreement (like a “prenup”) before registering, in which they opted out of the community property system by agreeing to keep all property separate.

The Bottom Line

In short, how you apply for Obamacare depends on how you file your federal taxes. If you include community income when you report your earnings to the IRS, you must include it when seeking health care coverage as well. If you report only separate income to the IRS, you will include only separate income on your health insurance application.

For More Information

To learn whether you are required to purchase health insurance under Obamacare, see Do I Have to Get Obamacare in California?

To find out how Obamacare’s cost-saving subsidies work, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare.

If you’re ready to apply, see How Do I Sign Up for Obamacare in California?

Also be sure to check out Our Family Coalition’s Understanding the Affordable Care Act in both Oakland and San Francisco!

Oakland
Registration
: Click Here!
When: Wednesday, January 29, 6-8pm
Where: BANANAS, 5232 Claremont Ave, Oakland

San Francisco
Registration
: Click Here!
When: Thursday, February 6, 6-8pm
Where: SF LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market St.