In New Jersey, what most of the country would call the County Commission is known as the Board of Chosen Freeholders. I assume they used to have to be land holders, but now anybody can run. Each county has its own rules, and its own number of freeholders, up to nine of them.
In Ocean County it is five. And in 2005 they turned down the application of Laurel Hester (played by Julianne Moore), a police officer who had served for twenty-three years and was now dying of cancer, to leave her pension benefits to her registered domestic partner, Stacy Andree (Ellen Page). The vote was unanimous, 5-0. In fact, it was a 150-year tradition that all votes be unanimous, and there had never been a case where they reversed themselves. This is the story of how they were eventually forced to break precedent.
I guess it is usually seen as a put-down to mention that a film might have been a Hallmark movie-of-the-week, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some good ones. They are predictable. You know the story would never have been filmed if these women had lost. But it is moving, and the performances by the two leads are great. There is also good supporting work by Michael Shannon, as Hester’s partner who is put off at first by learning that she is a semi-closeted lesbian. Nobody at work knew, and of course we understand that it would have made promotion impossible. Steve Carrell is also good as an in-your-face gay rabbi. Hester doesn’t want to become a political football, but eventually realizes that it’s not just about her, and that she has to step up and do what she can for the sisters that come after her. And today, those women can be legally married. Hooray! Andree still lives in the little house that she was able to keep because of Hester’s pension.