‘Freeheld’ movie portrays real-life fight for same-sex rights in NJ

“Freeheld,” the true story of a New Jersey police officer’s fight for same-sex equality, hit theaters Friday.

Julianne Moore portrays the late Ocean County Police Detective Laurel Hester, who fought to have her pension benefits transferred to her domestic partner, in the movie

Julianne Moore portrays the late Ocean County Police Detective Laurel Hester, who fought to have her pension benefits transferred to her domestic partner, in the movie "Freeheld." (10/16/15)

NEWARK - “Freeheld,” the true story of a New Jersey police officer’s fight for same-sex equality, hit theaters Friday.

The movie tells the story of Ocean County Police Detective Laurel Hester, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and wished to have her pension transferred to her life partner Stacie Andree. However, the transfer was not allowed because they were in a same-sex relationship. 

Hester and Andree, with the help of the organization Garden State Equality, set out to change this. Many believe that Hester’s fight is what kicked off the marriage equality movement in New Jersey.

Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality, is played by Steve Carrell in the movie.  Goldstein spearheaded support for the couple's legal fight, which they won a few weeks before Hester's death in 2006.

“’Freeheld’ is an extraordinary adaption of some of the most important events in New Jersey civil rights history,” says Goldstein. “It's an incredibly important story that this new movie interprets accurately and fairly. I’m so thrilled with the movie.”

Goldstein says that Steve Carrell’s performance is mostly accurate.

“Steve Carrell does an amazing portrayal, but it’s important for viewers to know it’s a movie,” he says. “There were a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations that we did to win justice for Laurel Hester that you don't see in the movie because it's not quite as exciting.”

Laurel Hester is portrayed by Julianne Moore and Stacy Andre is played by Ellen Page.

A documentary about the couple's struggle won an Academy Award.

“Freeheld” is rated PG-13.

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