A gay cop with six months to live is denied partner benefits

A New Jersey county board apparently is still able to sleep at night.

Published December 21, 2005 7:08PM (EST)

How did I miss this? Thanks, Pandagon:

After 23 years of service as an investigator in the Ocean County, N.J., prosecutor's office, Lt. Laurel Hester is dying of lung cancer. She would like her partner, Stacie Andree, to get her pension benefits.

The Ocean County Board of Freeholders would like Hester to get lost. The freeholders, the all-Republican governing body that sounds, and acts, like something out of the "Scarlet Letter," have denied her request for domestic partner benefits. Something about how it would "cost too much." Oh, and something about the "sanctity of marriage."

There's apparently a bit of a loophole in New Jersey's Domestic Partners Act of 2004. According to NJ.com, while that law covers state employees, it "also changed state law to permit -- but not require -- counties, cities and other local government entities to provide pension and health care benefits for domestic partners of their employees. More than 100 agencies have since adopted such resolutions, including Bergen and Hudson counties, NJ Transit, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and a dozen towns, from Stone Harbor to Jersey City. Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said not requiring local governments to adopt domestic partner benefits was 'the only way to get the bill through. We were well aware of the difficulties; that it was only a small step forward,' she said. 'It is something that we will have to come back and address in future legislative sessions.' For now, it has created a patchwork of law applied inequitably to public employees depending on local politics, according to Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, a gay rights organization."

Posted today at the Big Gay Picture: the first in a series of three interviews with Hester, who has otherwise shunned most press. The Republic of T. also has lots more info.

Without the benefits, by the way, Andree stands to lose the couple's house.

Hester has about six months to live.

Merry Christmas!

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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