Shock and Awe

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Shock and Awe

I'm a few days late on this one, but I just found out that Lt. Laurel Hester, the lesbian cop in New Jersey who is dying from inoperable cancer, is going to be allowed to leave her pension to her partner after all. I honestly can't believe it.

Hester had originally appealed to the Orange County Freeholders council-- made up entirely of Republican men-- and they declined her request to be able to transfer her pension to her partner, stating that it would "violate the sanctity of marriage." (New Jersey has a state domestic partnership law which allows but not requires them extend benefits to same-sex couples.) But after Hester's case made waves and they were bombarded with calls, emails and local news coverage they reversed their decision. (If the mood strikes, send the Freeholders a message of congrats for doing the right thing-- CountyConnection (at) co.ocean.nj.uss.)

It's just too bad that that somebody has to be dying for people to understand what lack of equal treatment means in real terms for gay and lesbian families. Although as sad as the case is at least it has a semi-happy ending. Perhaps in the way that Matthew Shepherd became the face symbolizing anti-gay violence, Lt. Laurel Hester will become the human face for why people need basic domestic partner benefits. (At least as a starting point.) The legacy of this case has already started in New Jersey, at least 6 other counties have recently moved to amend their rules to extend same-sex benefits to city employees. Like Orange County a few of them are Republican strongholds.

Three cheers for the fabulous Pam Spaulding for keeping such close tabs on this story.

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