Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You don't have to take income splitting. At least one guy hasn't ...

The income splitting option is not mandatory for those who qualify for it. Like any other tax credit, it's optional. Tax software will flag credits to make sure you get every loophole you're entitled to - problematic if you still do it manually. One guy in the 15%, a labour leader, was given the option by his software to opt out. And he did. Even though it cost him 1500 bucks. His reason: Health, education and welfare need the money more.

If just ten percent of those who qualify did the opt out too, the government might realize that it isn't such a smart idea - or at the very least, should be made available to working class families too.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A same sex marriage, 200 years ago

Is same sex marriage a recent phenomenon? Actually, it isn't. Let me explain.

On Tuesday, the odd legal team of David Boies and Ted Olsen (who opposed each other in the infamous Bush vs Gore debacle) will try to build on their previous victories in striking down Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, they're going for the jugular at the US Supreme Court and trying to legalize same sex marriage everywhere in America.

But for those who think this is a civil rights movement of recent vintage, it may come as a shock that the battle has been going on for more than two centuries in America. And in the early 1800s, two women actually got away with it and set the precedent. Let me explain.

In the recently published book Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Cleves, we learn a surprising fact.

Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake used a loophole in Vermont's common-law marriage statute and lived as a married couple from 1807 to 1851. In fact, Bryant had had at least two lesbian lovers before she settled down with Drake. This is an incredibly moving and sentimental story of love at its purest by two women who were both teachers and tailors by trade, poets by hobby, and deeply religious by practice.

Remarkably, their marriage was tolerated by the community they lived in and prospered. Sadly, much of their shared correspondence was burned so we will never know the true extent of how deeply they were into each other. But the writer does specify that when Vermont formally legalized civil unions and later gay and lesbian marriage, many legislators noted Charity and Sylvia's marriage as their precedent. It was truly a surprising story for me and a delight to read.

That's right, folks, gay marriage is two hundred years old. Let's hope it becomes a permanent fixture in the States just as it is here in Canada. It doesn't bother me, and I don't can't understand why it bothers anyone.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Senate and transgenders

To my knowledge, I have never met a transgendered person in my life. That does not mean I don't have respect or compassion for those who live the sex opposite of the one they are by birth, or for those who decide to take it to its logical conclusion and have sex reassignment surgery.

Our society has generally become accepting of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, which is a mark in this country's favour. But for some reason the same isn't always true of the transgendered. Maybe it's just fear of the unknown, a lack of understanding what is going on - or in some cases, it's outright prejudice. And sadly this has led to this section of the population being the victims of criminal acts.

It goes without saying, this is just plain wrong.

How surprising it was, then, when two years ago the House of Commons, over the objections of PMS, voted to add "gender identity" as a suspect class (or aggravating circumstance) in determining whether a convicted criminal should receive an enhanced sentence, especially for hate crimes. It's been slowly working its way through the Senate. It went through first and second readings without much fuss, although some Senators argued the law might be unconstitutional since it impeded on provincial human rights codes. A debatable point, but it certainly was one worth discussing.

Two months ago, however, the Senate Justice Committee proposed a series of amendments. Two make sense - ensuring transgendereds are not subject to cyberbullying, and broadening the definition of who is a transgendered person. Fair enough, But then the committee suggested that prisons, crisis centres, and restrooms and change rooms to be exempt from the legislation. (As I write this, I have checked Parliament's website and the amendments have not been acted upon.)

Say what?

I cannot for the life of me understand why this is being brought up. People in this group have a hard enough time dealing with the prejudice of having this orientation. Certainly they have a hard time getting access to "facilities" already. Why are the Conservative Senators making life more difficult than it already is?

This scandal only affirms my belief that Senators should be directly elected, preferably by proportional representation, to get rid of the deadwood and the idiots who want to move this country forwards and not back.

The fact is that even if the Senate accepts the amendments the bill will be tossed back to the House of Commons. There is no doubt that the House would reject them, and a conference committee (extremely rare in Canadian politics although still available as an option) would probably never agree on the wording, let alone the pith and substance. And, let's face it, there just isn't enough time until the October election.

There are only two ways out. The Senate can smarten up, reject the most odious part of the committee report, pass the bill with the palatable amendments, and send it back to the Commons where it would easily get final passage. Or the winning party this fall can reintroduce the bill as part of a series of criminal law amendments.

Has it truly come to this - that we say transgenders are part of our society, but certain restrictions apply? Ethnic groups, religions, races - they didn't accept half-measures in demanding equal treatment. Why should it any different for men who want to live as or become women, and vice versa?