Freeholders of Ocean County New Jersey
Ocean County officials to dying lesbian: bite us.
Not wanting to send the wrong moral message, the freeholders (that’s what they call elected county officials in New Jersey) of Ocean County have given the thumbs down to providing domestic partner benefits to a dying woman, Laurel Hester, and her partner.
Hester, who has inoperable lung cancer and has only a few months to live, worked as an investigator in the county prosecutor’s office for 23 years and would like her pension to go to her partner, Stacie Andree, so that Andree doesn’t lose the home the two bought together.
New Jersey has a domestic partnership law and Hester and Andree are legally registered. While state employees are granted DP benefits, municipalities are allowed, but not required, to do the same.
But the Ocean County freeholders, all Republicans, don’t feel like it. They’re citing cost concerns, but several New Jersey papers have reported that they haven’t formally done any cost analysis and don’t plan to. After all, preventing Hester from passing her pension to her partner will spare the county $13,000 a year and will hopefully teach Hester and Andree a lesson: being gay doesn’t pay.
According to the Star-Ledger, freeholder John P. Kelly cited “moral reservations” as his reason to deny a terminally ill veteran employee her full compensation package. He told the Asbury Park Press doing so would violate “the sanctity of marriage.”
Never mind that if Hester was a man and wanted to pass his pension on to, say, a heroin-addicted hooker he’d married during a blackout drinking binge, the pension would be secure.
But Hester is a woman and Andree is a woman. That they’ve been together six years, own property together and have joint finances – all things domestic partners have to prove to register that straight folks don’t have to prove to get married – means nothing in Ocean County. To the freeholders, Andree won’t be a surviving spouse; she’ll just be some dyke auto mechanic with a house on the market.
“It makes me nauseous,” Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein told the Star-Ledger. “It represents why we are fighting for marriage.” A marriage equality suit is currently pending before the state Supreme Court, with arguments slated for early next year.
I wonder what kind of stone the freeholders’ hearts are made of?
But hey, you’ve got to hand it to them: at least they aren’t hiding under the guise of “compassionate conservatism” unlike some (barely) elected officials (rhymes with “tush”). If you really want to prove you’re strong on family values, what better moral punching bag to use than a lesbian dying of cancer?
Speak Out: Let the Ocean County freeholders know what you think of their decision by calling 732-244-2121 or writing them at the Ocean County Administration Building; 101 Hooper Ave; Toms River, NJ 08754.