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Tax Tips for LGBT Families Apr. 14th, 2008 @ 01:25 pm
Like most Americans, I've spent the last couple of days printing, proofreading, signing, and mailing my tax forms. Hopefully most of you have either posted your forms or e-filed already, but if you haven't, you may find some of the information in this post especially useful. Those of you who have already filed may wish to keep these resources in mind for next year--it's never too early to start organizing your tax materials and strategizing about how to optimize your potential deductions.

If you still need a little help in the tax department, try consulting some of these resources.Collapse )

Hopefully most of you will get a little of your own back from the federal stimulus bill that passed earlier this year. If you want to get your stimulus money faster, make sure to take advantage of the Direct Deposit option offered on the forms--Andrew and I have done this whenever we've been owed money, and it greatly reduces not only the wait time but also the anxiety of rifling through your mail every day to see if your check came. To see if you'll get a stimulus payment, you can either check the reverse side of the stimulus-related IRS mailer that went out last month or visit the IRS website. The website also offers an automated refund tracker that allows you to view the status of your refund check by typing in your Social Security Number.

If any of you have additional tax tips to offer or a good resource to recommend, don't be shy--leave a comment here and share the wealth!

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/7410.html

Update on LGBT Adoption in Florida Mar. 20th, 2008 @ 05:29 pm
Over the past few years, Florida's ban on adoption by same-sex couples has garnered frequent coverage in the mainstream press. While the Supreme Court refused to allow challenges to this case to come to litigation in 2005, LGBT advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign have not abandoned the quest to bring Florida's laws into compliance with the more egalitarian policies on adoption that exist in other US states. Most US states explicitly permit LGBT couples to adopt, and a few have no legal provisions for or against LGBT adoption. For a full list of legislation on LGBT adoption state-by-state, Wikipedia's article on LGBT adoption offers a concise and well-organized summary, as well as insight into other countries' legislation on this subject.

Currently, Florida is the only US state with an outright legal ban on LGBT adoption.Collapse )

Speaking as someone whose parents jumped through no small amount of hoops to bring a child into their family, I can vouch for the fact that the most important factor in providing a loving and supportive home for a young person is the ardent desire to become a parent. In a world where a great many children need adoption or foster care, Florida's legislative status quo robs these young people of numerous opportunities to know love and encouragement from a caring parent. Hopefully, 2008 will bring progress towards parity of adoption rights for Florida residents of every orientation and identity--and consequently, increased resources for children in need of positive home environments. No matter what one's political views, it is difficult to dispute the right of every child to enjoy the love and support of a parent who cherishes the experience of raising children.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/7107.html

New York City Takes On Domestic Violence in LGBT Relationships Mar. 7th, 2008 @ 04:31 pm
At Families Joined by Love, we hear a lot of "success stories" from individuals who have found their way into happy and supportive relationships with partners of the same gender. By the same token, we devote a lot of space in our bookstore to materials that depict the positive environment that families with LGBT parents can provide for their children.

We also want to raise awareness about some of the more negative issues that can arise in human relationships, same-sex or otherwise.Collapse )

As updates on the progress of this legislation become available, we'll furnish the most current information on our Politics & Legislation forum, and also here on the FJBL blog. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse at the hands of a partner, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE, and make use of the resources provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/6885.html

Happy Anniversary, Civil Unions Feb. 22nd, 2008 @ 11:51 am
This week marked the passage of a full year since New Jersey's civil union law went into effect. Socially and often financially, the legalization of same-sex civil unions in New Jersey has been a boon for couples throughout the state, enabling them not only to enjoy the symbolic process of joining together in legal union, but also to reap the more practical benefits of legal commitment (such as shared health benefits and hospital visitation rights.) However, not every couple that has joined in civil union since the passage of this law has been able to reap the full extent of these benefits.

When is a marriage not a marriage? When it's a civil union, apparently.Collapse )

Fortunately, now as ever, there is strength in numbers. To the extent that the civil union law in New Jersey has made sweeping changes to public attitudes about sexuality, it has done so by revealing the depth and seriousness of same-sex couples' commitment to one another, and their desire for the same experiences of legal commitment that heterosexual couples have always taken for granted. For the New Jersey residents reading this, if you and a partner are beginning to think about adding your voices to the choir of same-sex committed couples in pursuit of full marriage equality, you can learn how to take that first step by visiting the Department of Health & Senior Services civil union page or by contacting your local health department.

As more same-sex couples in New Jersey take advantage of the civil union option, additional legislative mandates regarding enforcement of non-discrimination will likely appear in the queue due to the prominence of this issue in policy discourse. In the meantime, to those of you who have already taken advantage of this option in New Jersey--or anywhere else for that matter--congratulations, and a very happy anniversary to you.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/6443.html

Black History Month Feb. 3rd, 2008 @ 09:59 pm
We're three days into February, which means it's Black History Month once again. One of our regular forum posters started an excellent discussion about the significance of this observance for LGBT individuals, so I figured I'd do a little digging to see just how much LGBT history in the United States intersects with black history. After a little Googling, I came upon a neat feature from the National Black Justice Coalition: a day-by-day series of profiles of significant figures from American history who are both black and LGBT. I don't know if the NJBC plans to repeat this feature every year; in the meantime, you can check out the 2007 listings here.

I particularly like the NJBC's Black History Month feature because it showcases the true importance of heritage observances: to learn more about the achievements of individuals who have shaped the course of our shared history as Americans. Black History Month presents an excellent educational opportunity for Americans of all different backgrounds. Heritage observances are not so much about giving cursory recognition to key individuals as they are about delving into the narrative of people who have influenced our lives more than we may know.

For LGBT Americans, the concept of "black history" may seem to stand at odds with their identity as LGBT individuals, as if identity were a binary case of either-or. This idea is hardly unique to individuals of African heritage; I've seen parents on our boards express confusion about how to present themselves, about whether they are parents first or LGBT people first. In some ways, every American asks these kinds of questions in conceptualizing his or her identity: are we simply Americans, or are we the cross-products of our ancestors' identities? Does genetic material matter in the face of experience?

This question, in turn, elucidates why the observance of Black History Month matters for all Americans: black history is our history, regardless of our own backgrounds or experiences. Likewise, we all carry multiple labels on our shoulders; it is the interplay between these individual facets that crafts our own unique personae. So take a look at the profiles on the NJBC's website and look for familiar names that have mattered in your own life. Personally, I found it edifying to learn that many of the individuals profiled were, in fact, members of the LGBT community. Viewing key historical figures in a new light stands as a reminder that each facet of our identities takes its weight not from some sort of empirical formula, but rather from the importance that we ourselves--and the society that we live in--assign to it.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/6248.html
Other entries
» MRSA: Not Just An MSM Problem
Sorry to choke everyone with acronyms so early in the game, but "MRSA" is a lot easier to fit in a header bar than "methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus Aureus." Anyway, the LGBT community--specifically the gay male community--has come into focus recently as a high-risk demographic for outbreaks of the aforementioned bacteria. Since I work in public health and have something of a latent fascination with epidemiology, I thought I'd clarify why MRSA is a particularly important concern right now for the gay male community--and also explain why this strain of bacteria is, like HIV, a risk of which people of all sexualities and identities need to remain conscious.

Read on to learn more about MRSA, a little acronym with big health consequences.Collapse )

To keep your risk for MRSA-related health problems low, be smart about sexual activity and other physical contact--no matter what the gender or orientation of your partner(s). Keeping a good antibacterial body wash on hand helps to keep your skin healthy and reduce your risk of transmitting any kind of harmful bacteria to a sexual partner. Look for "triclosan" in the active ingredients list if you're not sure what to purchase, and opt for brands with a moisturizing agent if you have dry or sensitive skin. Apart from keeping clean, using condoms during sexual activity is, as always, key to staying healthy. And if you have children, make sure they're likewise aware of the increased proliferation of MRSA in the US population, and encourage them to follow good hygiene and sexual health practices (when they do become sexually active.)

Most importantly, help to quash the false information circulating about MRSA and other infectious diseases as they relate to the LGBT community. Working together, not alienating one another, is crucial in the fight for a healthier and more aware population.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/6039.html
» 2008 Presidential Candidates on Same-Sex Marriage
Over on our discussion forums, a request popped up for some analysis of the 2008 United States Presidential candidates' positions on same-sex unions. As something of a political junkie, I've seen my fair share of coverage on this topic, but since my goal here is to inform everyone equally about all candidates, I don't want to go posting up a bunch of different sources with partisan agendas. I thus point everyone to the most comprehensive list of candidates and issue positions I've found to date, provided by the excellent and thoroughly non-partisan voter information site Project Vote Smart. If you've never used Project Vote Smart before, take a look around on the site! It features all kinds of cool informational resources and quizzes to help match you, the voter, with the right candidate for your priorities.

If you don't feel like slogging through pages of candidate bios and issue position matrices on Project Vote Smart or other voter information sites, here's a basic rundown of where the major candidates stand.Collapse )

As the campaign for the Presidency heats up, I'll continue to post updates here about candidates' positions and activism efforts on issues of interest to the LGBT community.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/5871.html
» New Hampshire Rings In New Year with Civil Unions
Happy New Year to all of our readers! I hope that everyone enjoyed their winter holidays and had fun celebrating the turn of the year.

2007 ended on something of a sour note for LGBT people in Oregon, where domestic partnership benefits were voted down in the state legislature. Across the country in New Hampshire, however, LGBT individuals and couples had ample reason to celebrate as the year turned over. For the first time in the state's history, same-sex couples can get civil unions. At the stroke of midnight on January 1, roughly 20 couples took advantage of the newly effective civil union law and made their relationships "official" with legal ceremonies.

These laws have tremendous potential to bring the necessity of equal rights to the forefront of the public consciousness.Collapse )

Read the story for more details on how same-sex couples in New Hampshire celebrated their long-awaited right to legal union. I wish all of you a very happy 2008, filled with good fortune and hopefully with many victories for equal rights in this country. Stay tuned to joinedbylove as the year progresses for coverage of topical issues in equal rights legislation and activism, news about key LGBT individuals, and of course updates on the 2008 Presidential election. If you live in Iowa and are eligible to participate in tomorrow's caucuses, get to the polls before they close and make your voice heard!

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/5484.html
» Civilians Take Initiative To Eliminate Police Brutality Against LGBT Individuals
To end 2007 on a positive note, take a look at this recent news story about a civilian-organized conference to address police brutality against people of LGBT identity and orientation. As with other key issues in LGBT rights, police brutality as a gestalt concept has been under scrutiny since the middle of the 20th Century. The Civil Rights Movement and protests against the Vietnam War brought the problem of police brutality into sharp relief in the national consciousness. And at the close of the 1960s, the Miranda case called into question the right of law enforcement officers to supersede basic civil rights during an arrest.

However, the question of excessive force in law enforcement actions against LGBT individuals has been longer in coming.Collapse )

Read the story for more insight into the relationship between law enforcement and equal rights in the United States. Enjoy the rest of the winter holidays, and tune back in to the joinedbylove blog in 2008 for commentary on the latest developments in LGBT policy and activism. In the meantime, Laurie and I thank you all for helping to make the new and improved Families Joined by Love's first year a great one.

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/5167.html
» Discrimination Wears a Dress
I'm very glad to see that this issue has made it to the courts, given that the concept of clothing as an "advertisement" for sexual orientation and behavior affects all of us regardless of our own orientation or identity. Moreover, the inability of men to wear traditional women's clothing while women in America can wear men's clothing with impunity in a variety of situations flies in the face of the principles of openness and free expression outlined in our country's founding legal documents.

When is a dress not just a dress?Collapse )

In the meantime, let's start some discussion here about the interplay this case elucidates between gender discrimination and orientation discrimination. Where does the line get drawn? Why is it socially acceptable for women to wear men's clothing but not for men to wear women's clothing? What does this say about our society and about the changing nature of gender roles therein?

Link: http://community.livejournal.com/joinedbylove/5058.html
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