Tag Archive: Laurel Hester

Freeheld Scores Oscar Nod

Freeheld: The Laurel Hester Story, the film based on Laurel Hester’s struggle for justice against the Ocean County Freeholders was nominated today for an Oscar in the category of Best Documentary Short Subject.

Laurel Hester’s story was inspirational, and her courageous battle for equality and dignity for herself and her partner was really a struggle for greater justice, one that united all of us.

If you haven’t seen this incredibly emotional and inspiring film, you really are missing out. It’s great. And, you can still see it here in the Garden State on January 30 at 2p in the Library Auditorium at The College of New Jersey in Ewing.

The Oscars are Sunday, February 24th at 8pm, and with a little luck, the writers and studio execs will have reached a deal by then.

Good luck!

Update: Garden State Equality plans to throw a statewide Oscar® party on Sunday night, February 24, 2008, time and location TBA. It will be free, no tickets or RSVP required.  Stay tuned for details!

Ocean County GOP to Nominate Flaming Homophobe to Replace Saxton

Freeholder John KellyPolitickerNJ reports that the Ocean County Republican party will nominate Ocean County freeholder John P. Kelly as their candidate for the seat being vacated by Rep James Saxton.

In 2005 when Lieutenant Laurel Hester was dying of lung cancer and asked the county to allow her to pass her pension on to her domestic partner, Mr. Kelly was the freeholder who said it would “violate the sanctity of marriage” and that the estimated 45 cent tax increase on county residents was a tremendous cost. The Asbury Park Press rightfully slammed him on both counts.

After months of lobbying and enormous political pressure, the five-member board of freeholders relented, and voted 4-0 to grant county employees domestic partner benefits. Laurel Hester won, just weeks before she died. The only freeholder to conveniently miss the vote: John Kelly. Some reports said he was out of the state at the time. But the freeholder board has this strange fixation with always appearing “unified”, and it’s widely understood that Kelly was at home hiding – too cowardly or ashamed to face a frail but triumphant Lt Hester.

In a state that provides civil unions and is considering moving forward with real marriage equality, John Kelly is a relic of an intolerant past. It’s really sad if that’s the best the Ocean County GOP has to offer.

Brokeback Majority

Yesterday New Jersey’s GLBT community flexed its political muscle with a gala fund raiser to support pro-equality Senate candidates in next month’s elections. (Too much is at stake to let the GOP take the reigns, for a whole host of reasons too numerous to name but that’s not for here…)  Hosted by Garden State Equality, the annual Blue Jean Ball served three primary functions:  to raise money, to have fun and to recognize some amazing New Jerseyans whose courage makes us all less unequal. 

Andre Jackson gets a Standing OAndre Jackson takes the Hester Prize at the GSE gala. Click to enlarge

The day’s top prize, the Laurel Hester Award went to Andre Jackson, he of the infamous yearbook flap earlier this year.  While it’s a shame that Andre was forced to endure such an ugly and public battle,  the experience has clearly molded him into a poised and articulate civil rights champion.  (Me and my blogmates here at Blue Jersey won last year’s Hester Prize, and it feels really good to pass the torch to someone like Andre.)

Congressman Rush Holt and NJ Senator Ellen Karcher followed Andre on stage to an enthusiastic response, but it was still young Mr.  Jackson who scored the day’s only standing ovation.

Rush Holt, Ellen KarcherCongressman Holt, NJ Sen Karcher

Probably the best thing about the BBQ was the atmosphere.  the setting was (mostly red) Hunterdon County: lovely, bucolic, a pitch-perfect fall day.  The theme: country western, and for good reason.  The party was at a horse farmstead.  Jersey Fresh, indeed.

Early in the day I was sharing a moment with a friend about my age (35) when the entire arc of my liberal activist life seemed to flash before my eyes.  You see, there we were yesterday, the GLBT community (and allies) coming together to fight for marriage equality. When suddenly I had a flashback to what got me into politics to begin with:  the AIDS crisis.  Sitting there on that lovely farm with so many hundreds of nice people — many with their pets and kids in tow — listening to an amazing band and it felt so far removed from my early ACT UP days.  I confess: I prefer issues like full marriage equality and transgender solidarity over watching my friends dropping dead of AIDS any day.

I suggest such a radical evolution would have been impossible without the Steven Goldsteins of this world who remain unflinchingly relentless in the face of inequality.

(Some cool pix, beneath the flip)

FREEHELD makes IDA Short Film Nominee List

Freeheld, the documentary film about Lieutenant Laurel Hester’s simultaneous struggle against terminal lung cancer and Ocean County’s freeholders, is one of 5 short film nominees for the International Documentary Association Award, which will be announced at the Gala Benefit at the Director’s Guild of America. The film had previously won a Special Jury prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Laurel served Ocean County as a police detective, but when she found out that she had lung cancer, the government she served for 25 years turned its back on her. The film depicts the last year of Laurel’s life and her fight for justice and the right to pass on her pension to her partner, Stacie Andree, who would have otherwise lost their home.

We’ve written over 50 posts about Laurel – who has been called the “Rosa Parks of New Jersey gay and lesbian civil rights.” You can read more about her here.

There are several screenings coming up next month in New Jersey:

November 2 
Two Rivers Film Festival of Monmouth County
Monmouth County, NJ
4:30 pm

November 3 
Chillfest LGBT Film Festival
Jersey City, NJ

November 7 
PFLAG Ocean County
Ocean County, NJ

Still Held: NJ’s Civil Union Story

On the 100th day since New Jersey’s civil unions law went into effect, a tear-soaked audience filled the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick for the NJ premiere screening of “Freeheld: the Laurel Hester Story” – winner of the 2007 Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival – presented free by Garden State Equality.

There were tears of anger as we relived the Ocean County Freeholders’ stonewalling. There were tears of joy when the film depicted Laurel’s dramatic victory over intolerance. And of course, there were tears of sadness as we relived Lt. Hester’s and her partner Stacie’s personal tragedy.

Cynthia Wade deserves much praise for creating this documentary, which moved me beyond expectations. I was thrilled to learn during the panel discussion that followed that the film will be made available for additional New Jersey screenings. Having watched it last night, there are so many people I want to bring to see it. It was that good.

But, something else the audience learned in that panel discussion was also heartbreaking. After all Lt. Hester fought for, ultimately leading to the NJ Supreme Court’s decision last fall in favor of “equal” rights for all couples – we learned the fight is still not over. There are still couples out there who are being denied justice, and at least one of those couples was a plaintiff in the NJ marriage case.

“Freeheld: The Laurel Hester Story” — FREE premiere with the director, dignitaries, full reception

On Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:00 pm, George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Street, New Brunswick, Garden State Equality invites you to a once-in-a-lifetime evening, entirely free:

The New Jersey premiere of “Freeheld: The Laurel Hester Story,” the Sundance Award-winning film about a hero's electrifying fight for justice and heartbreaking fight for life. She changed our community – and all New Jersey – forever.  The film features several members of the Blue Jersey community.

The evening includes the 38-minute film, a wine-and-food reception with director Cynthia Wade, and a panel discussion with Congressman Frank Pallone, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and those who fought alongside Lieutenant Hester.

Again, the entire evening is free.  No RSVP or tickets necessary.

For further information, contact Garden State Equality, (973) GSE-LGBT or Contact@GardenStateEquality.org

Laurel Hester Documentary Wins at Sundance

FreeheldFreeheld, the documentary film by Cynthia Wade about Lt. Laurel Hester‘s final months and her brave fight and eventual victory over inequality, received a Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

“Laurel and Stacie believed that their personal story could make a difference for same-sex couples around the nation,” said Ms. Wade when she learned that her film had won a Special Jury Prize.

“The Sundance prize is a testament to their faith and belief that their struggle could make a difference in the fight for equality.  This award belongs to Laurel and Stacie.”

Laurel would be thrilled to know what a profound impact her life has had on the world. Garden State Equality will show Freeheld in New Jersey this spring.

First News Roundup of ‘o7

  • Many newspapers are doing retrospectives of the year that was.  No surprise who got top billing from the Ocean County Observer: Lt. Laurel Hester.  I wonder if she knew just how powerful her legacy would be one year later.
  • In addition to helping countless sufferers of disease like diabetes or Alzheimers, the new stem cell research center also has much promise locally.  The center (to be named for the late actor and activist Chris Reeve) suggests bigtime progress for Camden, as well.
  • As many of you know, the country lost it’s 3oooth soul in Iraq over the holiday weekend.  Peace activists from New Jersey and beyond will be hitting the streets of Washington later this month. On the 27th, we will take our mandate to the capital’s Mall.  On the 29th, we’ll be on Capital Hill doing direct lobbying of legislators to end this senseless war.  So who’s in?  I’ll be headed down and I hope many of my peace loving brothers and sisters will be joining me from the Garden State.
  • Some previously red township councils that flipped blue last November will be swearing in new progressives today.  Likewise the GOP is floundering in Washington Township.

    You all know about the big party in New Brusnwick later this week, right? Resolutions anyone?  Leave ’em in the comments, please!!

  • Monday News Roundup

  • New Jersey takes another step towards enacting a policy to provide clean needles to IV drug users to curb the spread of HIV.  With today’s long-awaited vote, NJ stands to become the very last state in the union to enact a needle exchange program.  With HIV transmissions as high as some third world countries, this step is long overdue here in the Garden State.  Today’s vote will  “also would provide $10 million for drug treatment and provide those exchanging needles with information and referrals for HIV testing, drug abuse treatment and health and social service programs.”
  • Also on tap in Trenton, a property tax standoff between Governor Corzine and the Union labor movement in the state.  Thousands of union members are expected to descend on the statehouse.  Says said Lynn Maher, a spokeswoman for the state’s teacher’s union, “the message is: We are not the problem. School employees, public employees, did not cause the property tax problem.”  According the the Star Ledger,

    the  frustrated Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday fired off a letter to legislative leaders challenging them to send him whatever pension reform measures they can pass, and then he will sort it out with his veto pen.


    I encourage you to the lead the Legislature forward,” Corzine wrote to Senate President  Codeyand Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr.  “Make your best judgment and move forward, but do not allow this issue to slow or impede our shared and overarching objectives.”

  • How many people will die in the Darfur region of Sudan today?  As heir aparent to lead the Africa subcommittee, Rep. Donald Payne vows to make the ongoing genocide in Sudan his number one priority.  Namely, he wants to fly some reconnaissance planes over Darfur to get a lay of the land, then send in unmanned drones to seek and destroy the janjaweed troops with blood on their hand.

    In an interview with Blue Jersey, Rep. Payne concedes such action is a bold step but “but someone has to stop this genocide and we have to do something to show (the killers) enough is enough.  At some point, enough will have to be enough.”  Check out the Darfur interview here.

  • New Jersey continues to face uo to the toxic legacy of its past.  Philly Inquirer

    As many as 300 long-closed municipal landfills, including others laden with toxic waste, lurk beneath New Jersey’s landscape, closer to homes than many people realize.


  • According to Pam’s House Blend, Lt. Laurel Hester is the obvious favorite  for blog-o-sphere’s Queer of the Year.  (Vote here)  Pam also notes that the movie (“Freeheld“) about Hester’s death-bed struggle for pension benefin for her widow is slated to get  some serious attention at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.  Clearly Laurel Hester’s struggle and legacy live on.
  • NJ.com reminds us of the ongoing battle between Gov. Corzine and PA Gov. Rendell over dredging of the Deleware River.  Unless the impasse can be overcome, Rob Andrews suggests a Congressional law to dissolve the Deleware River Port Authority (which is led by Rendell) and replacing the agency with an outfit more ammenable to the needs of New Jersey.

    Did I miss something?  What’s on your mind this mild December day??