Take a good look at these five guys. They are the face of compassionate conservatism, or at least one of its faces. They are the five Ocean County freeholders who denied lesbian cop Laurel Hester’s request that her pension go to her partner Stacie Andree. Hester is dying of lung cancer, and her pension would allow Andree to keep the home they have shared. One of these guys, John Kelly, said earlier that granting Hester’s request, and thus allowing Andree to keep their home, would “violate the sanctity of marriage.” The five have refused to make further comments, but issued a statement claiming “cost considerations” in the denial of Hester’s request.
You can send them a message about their stance on “morality” and “values” in Hester and Andree’s case, by contacting the Clerk of the Board at (732) 288 7777 or, from outside the USA +1 732 288 7777, or via email at CountyConnection@co.ocean.nj.us
Dane Wells, who describes himself as a “run-of-the-mill, middle-aged straight guy”, is not very happy with the movers and shakers of his local community, Ocean County in New Jersey.
…“Please, I need help,” Mr. Wells said in an email to UK Gay News.
… “After 25 years of risking her life every day in the trenches of law enforcement, her employer has just denied her pension benefits because she has ”come out“ as a lesbian on the eve of her death.
”Please help. Time is short as death draws closer every day to Laurel’s door. At Thanksgiving 2005, there are few travesties in America more compelling than this one.“ He wrote.
While Wells, may be reaching a bit in saying that there are ”few travesties in America more compelling“ than Hester and Andree’s plight, it does underscore a certain irony in the fact that their story is unfolding during a time of the year that is supposed to be all about family, compassion, etc., and how the five freeholders — who would claim faith as a reason for denying Hester her request and Andree the home they shared — seem to miss some very basic points that their faith and the ”reason for the season“ should easily bring to mind.
Wells lays it out pretty well in his editorial.
I have seen justice denied to someone who spent her life ensuring justice for the rest of us.
I have seen my government turn its back on a loyal servant.
I have seen a human being skewered – apparently on religious grounds – and I just can’t for the life of me understand how any god being worshiped by anyone in this county could possibly approve of this.
Laurel Hester’s last request is not about politics, religion, or economics.
It’s not about the ”sanctity of marriage“ or any of the other things we’ve been hearing about.
But it is about morality.
It is about human dignity.
It is about at least some minimal amount of goodness many of us want so desperately to find in the essence of human existence.
It is indeed about morality, human dignity, and some modicum of basic decency. The five freeholders don’t get it, but Wells does and so do the 100 supporters who turned out at a rally for Hester and Andree. The folks at UK Gay News get it too.
How this situation – and the thousands of others that go unnoticed – can arise in the United States puzzles us at UK Gay News. America proclaims itself as the leader of the world. But when it comes for basic rights of same-sex couples living in a long-term relationship, the country is probably in the bottom quartile.
The old chestnut about family values and sanctity of marriage just does not wash. America has one of the highest divorce rates in the world and is where a pop star can get married for the weekend.
The word ”humbug“ comes to mind.
But then the folks at UK Gay News live in a country that, while it hasn’t endorsed equal marriage, has enacted Civil Partnerships bill which offers same sex couples a range of rights and protections, including pension benefits. Even such a half-step towards equality puts the UK light years ahead of the U.S., where the five freeholders can remain holy and wholly embrace discrimination and couples like Hester and Andree are denied those basic rights and protections as a matter of ”morality“ and ”values,“ while same sex couples in the U.K. are queuing up for what promises to be a ”gay marriage boom.“
In that light, it kind of makes sense that Wells would take his plea for justice on Hester’s behalf beyond U.S. borders, to the U.K. If recent developments are any indication, it stands a much better chance of being heard, understood, and supported there than it does here.