A 7th county (Camden County) in New Jersey will pass domestic partner benefits tonight. A 24 year veteran of the Ocean County prosecutor's office has lung cancer that has spread to her brain. Her dying wish is that her pension benefits be passed on to her partner, who will otherwise not be able to afford to keep their home. Ironically, we have the bigoted Ocean County freeholders who have stubbornly refused to grant her that wish to thank for the advancement of gay rights in New Jersey.
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"Not since police raided a bar called Stonewall in Greenwich Village in the 1960s have any five people advanced the cause of gay rights as much as you have."As one speaker last night noted, Ocean County has become the "poster child for the homophobia in New Jersey." Disgusted by their heartless inaction and wanting to avoid a similar fate, other counties have since acted to pass domestic partner benefits to county employees. They include Bergen, Hudson, Mercer, and Union. Recently, Monmouth County - a Republican controlled county neighboring Ocean, passed domestic partner benefits. Last night, while Ocean County's freeholders filibustered for hours, the Passaic County freeholders unanimously voted 7-0 to do likewise.
Tonight, Camden County will become the first county in South Jersey - and the seventh in the state - to grant domestic partner benefits to government employees. According to Steven Goldtein, "This demonstrates the unified disgust of all New Jersey -- North, Central and South -- with the grotesque hatred the Ocean County Freeholders have for Lieutenant Laurel Hester."
(And if there's any doubt that Ocean County has become the poster child of homophobia, take a look at all the press they've generated just today: NY Times, Star Ledger, Asbury Park Press, Press of Atlantic City, Advocate, 365Gay.com)
Laurel will die soon from her cancer, but she can rest peacefully knowing that her bravery, even while suffering from her disease, has advanced the rights of thousands of gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey.