Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree

July 16, 2023
David Sunnyside

When police lieutenant Laurel Hester, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, wished to pass her pension benefits on to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, the New Jersey state government refused. The couple, who had registered their partnership under domestic-partnership laws, were told they couldn’t receive the money because of Hester’s sexual orientation.

Despite her own terminal illness, Andree tirelessly campaigned for the law to be changed, often appearing at town hall meetings and press conferences to speak out on behalf of Hester and other gay New Jerseyans. She also volunteered at fundraisers and worked with the garden-based gay rights group Garden State Equality to raise funds. In her final months, she also helped Laurel’s longtime detective partner Dane Wells (Michael Shannon) pursue the case with the board of Ocean County Freeholders.

The story of this beautiful, selfless couple’s struggle was made into an Oscar-winning movie—Freeheld—starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. The film depicts the heartrending battle Hester and Andree went through to have their equal rights protected. Andree’s support for the movie made it even more powerful.

Even though Hester died before the release of the film, she still makes an impact on people around the world. To this day, her efforts continue to make a difference and inspire others to fight for what they believe in. In fact, a framed copy of the original GPU charter was presented to the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Center at Stockton University in February 2016. It is on display for all to see and enjoy.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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