Laurel Hester, 1957-2006

The legacy of the lesbian cop who fought discrimination until the end and won.

Published February 22, 2006 11:03PM (EST)

Last Saturday, Laurel Hester, the lesbian cop in New Jersey who fought successfully to leave her pension benefits to her partner, died of lung cancer. She was 49.

Negotiations about Hester's pension benefits led to a statewide change of policy; now police and fire department employees will be allowed to name anyone, not just a spouse, as a beneficiary, according to the New York Times obituary. It's a change that will benefit countless gay and lesbian couples, as well as single people and unmarried couples, for years to come. Big Gay Picture also has an obituary, as well as information on how to contribute to a scholarship fund for gay and lesbian youth established to honor her memory.

We're grateful and relieved that Hester died knowing that Andree will be able to enjoy the same benefits that the spouses of heterosexual cops have. Yet, it's still tragic that Hester had to spend those last precious months of her life fighting this battle. May her story inspire other counties and states to rethink their discriminatory policies.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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