By Pam Cole
Ocean County, NJ, Feb. 20, 2006Less than a month after
winning her year-long battle to leave her pension benefits to her
domestic partner, Ocean County police veteran Laurel Hester has
died. Hester had become well-known for her outspoken battle with
Ocean County, which included a highly-publicized video of her pleading
her case. In the video, Hester, who was too ill to appear before
the county board in person, was bald from chemotherapy and gasping
"If Stacie could receive my pension benefits, it would make
all the difference in the world. All I'm asking for is that you
sign the resolution, and make a change...a change for good, a change
for righteousness, and a change in the lives of so many people that
have dedicated themselves to county government," Hester said.
New Jersey law lets each county decide whether to allow domestic
partners to inherit county employee benefits. In the mass of media
surrounding Hester's case, several New Jersey counties did just
that. However, Ocean County held firm in their opposition, issuing
a rejection of Hester's plea as recently as January 20, 2006. Once
the video became public, Ocean County received much criticism from
gay rights and other public interest groups, and decided to reverse
their decision on Jan. 25, 2006.
Because of her efforts, Hester's partner, Stacie Andree, will receive
Hester's benefits from the Police and Firemen's Retirement System.
It was Hester's wish that Andree would receive the benefits so that
she could continue to afford to live in the home that the couple
shared for six years. On Saturday, Hester died in that home with
her partner at her side.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, March 4 at St.
Mary's By the Sea Episcopal Church, 804 Bay Ave., Point Pleasant
Beach in New Jersey. Memorial contributions may be made to the Laurel
Hester Scholarship Fund/TPLF, c/o The Personal Liberty Fund, P.O.
Box 11335, New Brunswick, NJ 08906-1335