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Laurel Hester stands tall

You’ve might have heard about the story of Laurel Hester, the NJ police officer who has terminal cancer. She has been fighting the Ocean County Freeholders, who have decided that she cannot leave her pension to her partner. How can these men sleep at night?

John Kelly, one of the Freeholders (all compassionate, conservative Republicans, by the way), said that if Hester’s request was granted it would “violate the sanctity of marriage.”

Michael Jensen of The Big Gay Picture has been been blogging about this story from the beginning. He emailed me to let me know about the first of his three-part interview with Laurel Hester. His coverage won her confidence and other than a brief interview with the NY Times, she hasn’t spoken to other media. What a scoop, Mike — thanks for helping Laurel share her story.

Here is a snippet about her early experiences on the job, where being “out” was out of the question.

Her supervisor made it clear that Laurel’s employment hinged on her staying closeted. “I didn’t feel ashamed of being a lesbian,” she says. Indeed, she had known from an early age she was gay. “It did frighten and depress me,” she says. “I had no idea there was anyone else like me, but deep down I also knew there was nothing wrong with me.”

Laurel also knew she would be an effective cop and could do much good. Even though a life in the closet was a sacrifice, she was willing to make that sacrifice if it allowed her to follow her calling.

Laurel was one of only two women in the Morris police department. She says the men treated her fine, but only to a point. “There was a line that couldn’t be crossed and that was socializing with the guys,” she says.

And no socializing meant none of the old-boys-network that helped with promotions. “But the biggest drawback,” says Laurel “was that I didn’t have any mentors, and that is so important to learning about being a cop. That meant I had to work even harder.”

Go read the rest. The other parts of Mike’s interview will be posted this week.

The Republic of T. has blogged extensively about Laurel’s fight.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding