The irony of Ocean County’s freeholder’s coldhearted refusal to grant pension benefits to Laurel Hester is that their bigotry has served as the catalyst for advancing civil rights in New Jersey:
Goldstein said that the attitude in Trenton toward expanding the partnership law was enhanced dramatically by the recent, highly publicized refusal of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders to extend benefits to Lieutenant Laurel Hester, a 24-year veteran police officer with the county prosecutorâ€™s office who is dying of cancer. This past October, Hester personally asked the Board for such benefits, which the county can extend under the 2004 law, so that her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, could have the same pension rights that surviving spouses of county employees enjoy. Despite widespread protests and public condemnation of the freeholdersâ€”some of whom cited the â€œsanctity of marriageâ€ as a defenseâ€”Ocean County has refused to budge. Several other counties, however, have since acted to extend domestic partner benefits to their employees.
â€œThe Hester case was a real factor,â€ Goldstein said. â€œIt was mentioned by every legislator I talked to you.â€
And we learned yesterday that yet another county (Passaic) will also be extending domestic partner benefits soon.
Laurel is sick and will not be able to attend the freeholder meeting on January 18th, but there will be a video message from Laurel – her last direct appeal to the freeholders – played at the meeting. If you’re in the area, considering coming out to support her on Wed, Jan 18 at 4 pm at the Ocean County Administration Building, 101 Hooper Avenue, Toms River.