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Ocean County, New Jersey. Homophobia capital of America

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When lung cancer finally kills Laurel Hester -- and it will, in a matter of months -- she wants to know that her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, won't lose their home in Point Pleasant.

That legacy, however, is in doubt.

Ocean County's freeholders have refused to act on a request from Hester, an investigator for 23 years in the county prosecutor's office, to provide domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian employees under a state law enacted last year. Without a resolution by the freeholders, her pension benefits cannot go to Andree.

"That's not what I hoped for with the legislation," said Sen. John Adler (D-Camden), a prime sponsor. "It's a missed opportunity for Ocean County to show that it respects families. ... It's a crummy, cold decision."

The surviving spouse benefit amounts to about $13,000 a year and would be paid from the state pension fund. For Andree, an auto mechanic, the money would "mean the difference in whether or not she can stay in the house," Hester said.
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