Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By The Associated Press
POINT PLEASANT, N.J. – Laurel Hester, a cancer-stricken law enforcement officer whose efforts to ensure that her pension benefits would be extended to her longtime partner became a rallying point for gay family rights activists, has died. She was 49.
Hester, who died early Saturday at the Point Pleasant home she owned with her partner, Stacie Andree, was a 23-year veteran of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. The couple, who were together for six years, had registered as domestic partners on Oct. 28, 2004.
During the final months of her life, Hester, who had lung cancer, waged a campaign to have her Police and Firemen’s Retirement System benefits passed on to her partner because she feared that without her $13,000 death benefit, Andree would be forced to sell their home.
New Jersey’s Domestic Partners Act, which was passed in 2004, gave state employees the right to name their domestic partners as beneficiaries, but it did not require local and county governments to do the same. Instead, it gave them the right to enact legislation extending the benefits, which several have done.
Ocean County initially balked at granting the benefits, but the county ultimately agreed to do so, amid blistering criticism from Garden State Equality and other gay family rights groups.
“You have just made yourselves an example of what democracy is all about,” she told them that day, appearing before the panel in a wheelchair, bald from chemotherapy treatments and wearing a surgical mask over her mouth. “And you’ve shown that you’re willing to listen and that together we can work things out.”
Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said Saturday that neither Hester nor her efforts will be forgotten.
“Lieutenant Hester gave a face and a story to our struggle,” he said. “If we win marriage equality, we will be able to point to Laurel Hester and her partner Stacie Andree as the couple, as much as any other, who made history happen.”