The Laurel Hester effect

After a dying gay cop's victory, domestic partner benefits are spreading in New Jersey.

Published January 25, 2006 5:21PM (EST)

Broadsheet recently reported, with considerable surprise and relief, that the freeholders of Ocean County, N.J., have finally agreed to give dying cop Laurel Hester's pension benefits to her female partner. We also mentioned that Republican state Sen. Andrew Ciesla has asked the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services to prepare a bill that would allow members of the Police and Fire Retirement System to leave their benefits to anyone they choose. (The state's other public employees already have this arrangement.)

But wait, says the Big Gay Picture, there's more! "Just last night I reported that Jackson Township, led by a Republican committeeman, was extending domestic partner benefits to employees. Now this morning comes word that Atlantic County is doing the same thing. What's really significant is that this is another Republican stronghold," writes blogger Michael Jensen. Not a bad start to a legacy, especially given the way it looked as if things were going to turn out.

"Clearly, Laurel's story moves those that hear of it," Jensen adds. "I encourage everyone out there to not only spread the word in your community about Laurel's story, but to find the Laurel Hesters who live where you do. Trust me, they are there. And when you find them, publicize the hell out of them. Contact your local paper, television and radio stations. Get churches involved. Become your town's Dane Wells. Tell us about it and we'll do our part as well. Because as Laurel proves, most people are on our side. It's just that a lot of them don't know it yet!" Props to Jensen for doing the above for Ms. Hester -- and proving that it can work.

(And here's a nice easy way to start: Vote "Yes" in the Asbury Park Press' front-page poll [scroll down] about Hester. I just did! So far 82 percent of respondents support the freeholders' action. The most recent one, that is.)

It may be just one township -- No, two! No, three! -- in New Jersey, but as I said about Kanab, Utah, these things add up. This time, though, it's in a good way.

By Lynn Harris

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

MORE FROM Lynn Harris

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex New Jersey