About the Film…

Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester spent 25 years investigating tough cases in Ocean County, New Jersey, protecting the rights of victims and putting her life on the line. She had no reason to expect that in the last year of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, that her final battle for justice would be for the woman she loved.The documentary film “Freeheld” chronicles Laurel’s struggle to transfer her earned pension to her domestic partner,¬†Stacie Andree. With less than six months to live, Laurel refuses to back down when her elected officials – the Ocean County Freeholders -deny her request to leave her pension to Stacie, an automatic option for heterosexual married couples. The film is structured chronologically, following both the escalation of Laurel’s battle with the Freeholders and the decline of her health as cancer spreads to her brain.As Laurel’s plight intensifies, it spurs a media frenzy and a passionate advocacy campaign. At the same time, “Freeheld” captures a quieter, personal story: that of the deep love between Laurel and Stacie as they face the reality of losing each other. Alternating from packed public demonstrations at the county courthouse to quiet, tender moments of Laurel and Stacie at home, “Freeheld” combines tension-filled political drama with personal detail, creating a nuanced study of a grassroots fight for justice.


The Cast…

Laurel Hester


Police Lieutenant Laurel Hester once announced, “Twenty-four years is a long time in the closet. And were it not for this set of particular circumstances, I would not have to be here to announce my sexuality because, frankly, it’s nobody’s business.” Yet, once terminal cancer forced her hand, Hester’s love for her domestic partner Stacie Andree – and concern for the plight of other same-sex couples everywhere – led her on a quest that not only ended her years in the closet, but put her in the center of an intense media spotlight.Hester was not alone in facing discrimination based on her sexual orientation, yet understood that this public fight afforded an opportunity to further a wider cause. Despite the demands of her own declining health, Laurel’s final act of bravery would serve to energize a grassroots movement that extended far beyond the confines of her local community and her home state. ¬†


Stacie Andree
A soft-spoken auto-mechanic who’d made a life with her partner of six years, Stacie just wanted keep the home that she’d built with Laurel. “It’s not just a house; it’s our home. It’s something we actually built together… It’s a part of her. It’s a part of me,” Stacie explained during their struggle. Confronting not just the pending loss of her partner, but also the demands of being in the center of a political and media storm, Stacie “stands by her woman” and bravely takes an uncharacteristically public stand.