CommunityPam's House Blend

Laurel Hester's lasting impact on gay rights

This story continues to change minds and change lives. Former police officer Laurel Hester, who is dying of cancer, finally won the right to leave her pension benefit to her partner last week. She has already had a huge impact on gay rights in the state of New Jersey. All state employees, and county employees in Bergen and Hudson, Mercer, Union and Monmouth now have the ability to do so, due to elected officials in those townships extending the benefit after witnessing Laurel’s courage.

Last night, Jackson Township Committeeman Mark A. Seda, a Republican, convinced his colleagues to unanimously vote for their town to extend domestic partner benefits to employees there as well. National Dem leadership — you, the spineless ones who cannot and will not speak out for your gay constituents, look what a Republican has the courage to say.

Like many other people around the world, I’ve been learning a great deal recently about the issue of Domestic Partner rights that has placed Ocean County front and center on the world’s stage through the incredibly courageous story of Ocean County’s own hometown hero, Lt. Laurel Hester of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

From what I can see, I’m only one of millions who’s been touched in a very big way by Lt. Hester’s story. If it weren’t for Lt Hester’s heart-wrenching story, I would probably not have paid much attention to this issue. Her dignity and the incredible bravery she’s displayed at the end of her life in wanting to change the world has inspired me to realize that as an elected official I should be standing by her side.

I’ve been approached by a lot of people in Jackson and elsewhere about this issue. I was very pleased to learn that the overwhelming majority of them agree with me that this is an important civil rights issue; an issue that as Americans we all have to address. To me, it seems like it’s nothing other than a very simple matter of fundamental fairness and Equal Rights for All Americans. If it weren’t for Lt Hester’s heart-wrenching story, I would probably not have paid much attention to this issue.

But now I have, and I’m alarmed to learn of the loop holes New Jersey law dealing with Domestic Partnership Rights.  I’ve found there are a lot of gaps in existing state laws that have been created in recent years and quite frankly in my estimation need to be closed.

It’s that simple. Admit you didn’t understand the complexities, say this is something that needs to be corrected, and move ahead and do it, because it is about fairness. Seda was able to say “civil rights” without having a conniption out of fear of offending groups of people who claim to be more aggrieved in the phony zero-sum game of “rights entitlement” (you know who you are).

You can read the rest of Seda’s statement and Michael Jensen’s thoughts on Laurel Hester’s long-term impact on gay rights at The Big Gay Picture.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding