A film about a dying lesbian cop’s struggle to win pension benefits for her same-sex partner has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Freeheld follows Laurel Hester, a lesbian New Jersey police officer, as she was diagnosed with cancer and denied the right to transfer her pension benefits to her partner Stacie Andree.
Although New Jersey began offering domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples in 2004, these rights applied only to state, not county, employees. Hester called on local authorities to change the policy, but the Ocean County officials — five Republicans — voted against the proposal.
Hester refused to back down and appealed the county’s decision. In Jan 2006, the board reversed its stance and extended pension benefits to registered same-sex domestic partners. Hester passed away less than one month later.
The 38-minute film, directed by Cynthia Wade, was nominated in the Oscar’s Best Documentary Short category on Jan 22.
“I hope this film will inspire someone,” Hester said in an interview six weeks before her death. “I hope it gives them courage if they are dealing with discrimination, as I have. I hope if they have a terminal disease, that they somehow get hope from listening to my story.”
“I want to make a difference, and I want people to be affected by the things I’ve said and what I’ve done. And I want them to realize that they can do it too. There’s nothing extraordinary about me. I’m not a super person.”
Since its premiere last January, the film has garnered popular and critical acclaim. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, and a handful of awards at independent film festivals.
Watch the trailer below: