Friday, December 07, 2012

The Current Political Climate

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, at least since this year's election results.  I mean wow.  Just wow.  What other response can you have for this year?  I mean Barack Obama was re-elected president in a race many thought he would lose.  All the state initiatives that supported gay marriage won, and those that were in opposition to gay marriage lost.  Yesterday, both Washington and Maryland started issuing marriage licenses for gay couples.  In Maine gay couples will be allowed to marry on December 29 because of their successful vote and in Minnesota a vote for an amendment to discriminate against gay marriage failed.  Today, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases on Proposition 8 in California and on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).  While many would have preferred that they decline to hear the Prop 8 case (thereby invalidating Prop 8 and allowing for gay marriage in California), it's still just another step forward.

As many of having been hailing it, this has been the year for marriage equality.  So many thanks to all of you who voted for equality.  I thank you and my family thanks you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The New Normal

There's a lot of things I used to believe I wouldn't see in my lifetime.  Things that have happened in my lifetime.  As a child growing up in the 70's I never thought I would see the Berlin Wall fall, the U.S.S.R. dissolve, being openly gay in the military, an African American becoming president, and gay marriage (at least for a short time in California).  This week, a new show premieres on NBC, called "The New Normal", a show about a gay couple that want to have a child through surrogacy.  For those of you that may not have seen it, this isn't the first attempt to put surrogacy on prime time.  Ming Na starred in a very short-lived series called "Inconceivable", a medical drama about a surrogacy firm, that helped gay couples become parents (patterned after the surrogacy firm we used).

"The New Normal" is supposed to be a comedy, which doesn't at first glance seem to bode well for such a serious topic.  And the surprise here, for me anyway, is that the topic is the experience I've tried to document in this blog, about the process of becoming a parent as a gay couple.  I was a little taken aback at how lightly  some of the very serious topics were played in the pilot episode.  It was a very heart wrenching process for us, to select an egg donor, and to have it played as joke just seemed wrong.  I think also the Ellen Barkin character while, she does show how bigoted, homophobic, and racist people can be, isn't as funny as they want her to be, and I found too many of the scenes contrived just to show her as bigoted, homophobic or racist.

But the good news is by the second episode, they were able to breathe a little bit of life into the characters. They're still a little single dimensional, but it's improving, and I might actually like some of them by the third or fourth episode.  The challenge will be to keep a mainstream audience interested for that long.

But as I said when I started this blog article, there are certain things I didn't think I'd see in my lifetime.  A show that actually shows what I went through in my life to become a parent was certainly one of them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why be a parent?

As a gay man, I'm often asked why I would even want to be a parent in the first place.  For me it's a simple answer.  Something deep down inside me always knew I would be a parent.  Partly it might have something to do with my cultural upbringing, but it was also innate, a part of me that I couldn't deny.  After having our daughter it proved so true, that I couldn't have imagined a life without becoming a parent.  That feeling was really hard to describe and explain, until I read this piece on Quora this week, "Why Do Some Humans Not Want Children?".  Jonathan Brill, the author explains exactly why you shouldn't become a parent, but then explains all this is why he is a parent and how he wouldn't change it for the world.  That's exactly the way I feel about my daughter too!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update: One Bank Gets It - Wells Fargo

After running into roadblock after roadblock on trying refinance our home in the post 2010 IRS tax publication 555 ruling, my mortgage broker finally came back with good news. It turns out Wells Fargo is much more progressive than other banks, and one alternative we have to refinance our house. It's sad because I've already spent close to $1,000 on refinance costs with another bank that I won't recoup if we have to switch banks to complete our refinance.

But here's the good news, in a letter Wells Fargo sent out to their loan agents:

The IRS mandated effective with 2010 1040 returns that registered domestic partners must each report half the combined community income earned by the partners.

If you have a W2 wage earner borrower and the his/her domestic partner is not on the subject loan in order to use all of the W2 wages the borrower earned then the following documentation is required.

· Borrower’s 2010 1040 that supports 50% of W2 wages claimed and notation on the 1040 domestic partner claimed other 50% wages (If borrower has filed 2011, which I would be surprised as of this date, should include those along with the 2010).

· Operations will need to obtain the W2 from the IRS using the 4506-t in order to validate matches the W2 statement provided by the borrower.

· Operations still obtains the tax transcript and that should always match the 1040 (no difference in process with this step).

At least one bank gets it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Effect of Publication 555 from the IRS

The right wing often claims that gays get equal rights with laws around domestic partnership and civil unions, and they don't need marriage for equality. I've been battling a side effect of domestic partnership and civil unions laws which are supposed to take the place of being able to get married, and provide me with equal protection. But unfortunately of course they don't.

In particular the problem I'm facing is a side effect of Publication 555 from the IRS which I've written about before. I'm trying to refinance our primary home this month to take advantage of the low interest rates. But I'm running into an issue because of the way our 2010 tax returns look due to Publication 555 from the IRS. While its intent was good, in trying to make taxes look similar to what married couples have to do, it had the by-product of also making my income "look" smaller, essentially disqualifying me for a refinance. Married couples don't have this issue because they get to file their taxes using the category "married filing separately", a category that domestic partners aren't allowed to use.

It's an additional problem for us because we have our home titled in a trust. We do it this way because it's the only way to reduce the tax consequence of passing on a home if one of us should pass away. But due to marriage laws, only one of us is allowed to be named on the trust, unlike married couples where both parties can be on a living trust. So for us, I'm on the trust, and my domestic partner is the beneficiary. This way if I die first, my partner gets the property and the tax savings, and if he passes away first, then nothing changes and beneficiary of the trust becomes our daughter. But using a trust means the mortgage and property are only titled in my name rather than both of us. So doing a refinance in both our names to alleviate the 2010 reduced income tax return issue isn't really an option either.

Basically you're screwed financially if you can't get married, at least in trying to reduce your interest rate in a refi, and trying to get lower taxes on inheritance through a trust. Gay people can't have it both ways, while married people can.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Worst Parent Ever

Sometimes, after reading posts to forums and articles on parenting, I can't help but wonder, "Am I the worst parent ever?". Let me give you some context. As I said in the previous blog post, we're concerned with the type of education our daughter is going to get going to a public school that has only mediocre ratings. So I spend some of my free time looking at real estate, and some time on real estate blogs. What amazes me about these blogs is the prevalence of posts talking about buying a home for the good school district. And in the Bay Area, where I live, how really you can only buy a home in Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Cupertino if you want a good school.

As you might have guessed, we don't live in any of those cities, nor is buying a home in any of those school districts on our short or long range plans. And so that's where the "worst parent ever" comes from. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only parent not scheming or trying to figure out a way to get my child in a Cupertino or Palo Alto school. And all those posts make it seem like some how I'm depriving my child by not sending her to one of these top tier schools.

That's when I have to remind myself, I went to a mediocre school, and I've had more successes in my life than most people I know, and that the school certainly didn't place any limitations on my achievements or my ability to succeed. But it's hard to keep that point of view in an overwhelming flood of opinion in the opposite direction.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Finding The Right School

I always thought I'd be the type of parent that didn't care about what school my child attended, because we'd (the parents) be the ones that influenced our child and made sure she got the most out of school and learned everything she needed to, so we could make up for any deficit the school might have. This was especially true since I went to a so-so public school, and still managed to graduate near the top of my class, and go to a top notch college.

But reality is never as easy as what we idealize. For our daughter, we thought we'd send her to public school for kindergarten. But then California budget cuts struck, and the idea of sending our daughter to a school where the child to teacher ratio was 33 to 1 just didn't seem like a good idea, when just the year before it was only 20 to 1. So our daughter has spent her kindergarten year in a private elementary school. While we love the school, we don't love the cost of the tuition, and I really don't see us being able to sustain this through the rest of her academic years.

So in January we started looking at public schools and other alternatives again. With our severe disappointment in our home school (who failed to return any calls to us last year), I started looking into the open enrollment process, where you can apply for any school in the district. There were two obvious choices, the lottery schools which were top ranked, and in fact one is the top ranked elementary in the state of California. But we decided that one is way too competitive, and we didn't want our daughter growing up amidst that much competition to succeed. The other lottery school requires parent participation, 4 hours in the classroom during the work week.

So we started looking at the other elementary schools in the district that are close to our home. We found one that's relatively close, is smaller than typical, and still has 20 to 1 child to teacher ratios in 1st to 3rd grade. While its scores aren't the best, they are better than our home school, so we decided to target getting into this elementary school.

Last week, we got our acceptance letter, so it appears we've found a public elementary school for our daughter. But it's been a lot more work than I ever expected, and even then I'm still worried about the quality of the education she's going to receive. It's a surprise to me how much this matters to me, after I was so convinced it wouldn't make a difference.