(Cross-posted at Blue Jersey)
[Background: This is huge news. Laurel Hester, a 23 year veteran of the Ocean County prosecutor’s office has lung cancer which has spread to her brain. The state passed a domestic partner law that allows (but does not mandate) counties to grant domestic partner benefits to county employees. Laurel has asked for the right to pass her pension benefits on to her partner, who may otherwise lose their home without it. Months of protesting, attending freeholder meetings, and public education have finally paid off. You can find out more background info on the situation here.]
“This is one of the happiest days of my life…I feel like David conquering Goliath.” said Laurel Hester on Saturday morning.
After nearly a year of refusing to grant Lt Laurel Hester the right to pass her pension benefits on to her partner, Ocean County’s freeholders will finally grant Hester her dying wish when they vote on Wednesday.
Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality: “Truth be told, we did lose hope for a reversal in the last couple of weeks. We had applied all the pressure in the world, embarrassing the freeholders and few public servants had ever been embarrassed before in the state of New Jersey or in this country, and they would not budge. Finally they did. Hallelujah! There is a God….Now that the Ocean County freeholders have done the right thing, we thank them with all our hearts and welcome them to the New Jersey of the 21st Century, where compassion and common-sense prevails over hatred and outmoded homophobia.”
The change of heart came after the freeholders had a political meeting with other Republican leaders in the county.
Freeholder James Lacey: “I think we’re doing the right thing now. I feel comfortable.”
But there’s more:
In addition, state Sen. Andrew Ciesla, R-Ocean, has asked the state Office of Legislative Services to prepare a bill he will sponsor that will eliminate the difference in the pension inheritance rights of members of the police and fire retirement system and other state public employee retirement systems.
I want to thank the freeholders for deciding to do the right thing before Laurel dies. Today is a monumental victory for civil rights. Justice prevailed over bigotry, and a Laurel Hester can die in peace knowing she left the world better than she found it.