The true story behind “Freeheld”


In the film: Laurel wears a mask to her final freeholders meeting because she’s so sick.

“When they went to the emergency meeting, Laurel and Stacie had a disagreement because Stacie did not want Laurel to go because all of the germs. She really was upset. And Laurel said ‘I’m going,’ and Stacie said, ‘You’re so sick.’ It was actually quite a big fight that happened beforehand. She said, ‘You’re so sick—you need to be home. It’s the middle of winter—you can’t afford somebody sneezing or coughing on you,’ which was true. But Laurel said ‘I have to be there, I have to be there.’ It was only three weeks before she died and so the compromise became that she would wear that medical mask, which she did.”


In the film: Laurel and Stacie aren’t concerned about pushing for marriage equality.

It’s true that Steven Goldstein encouraged Laurel and Stacie to become the new faces of marriage equality, but they were more focused on the pension. “I think the fact that Laurel was—she wasn’t saying ‘gay marriage,’ which is a term I hate—I’d rather say marriage equality. But she wasn’t saying ‘Gay marriage!’—she was saying, ‘I earned this pension and I’ve earned the right to give it to who I want to give it to,’ and I think even the most conservative pockets—there is this kind of American ideal of ‘If you earn the money, you can do with it what you want.’ And so a lot of people didn’t have a problem with that. But they weren’t courageous enough to actually stand with her, a lot of them.”

In the film: Freeholder John Kelly skipped the final vote because he knew he’d lose.

“Of course the freeholders always denied my requests to interview them so what was going on behind closed doors, we can only guess at,” Cynthia said. “But there were definitely some gestures and facial expressions in the original freeholders meeting where clearly it was not five-zero. At least two of them—one of them was feeling profoundly uncomfortable; maybe another one of them was willing to be swayed. And it was really one of them, John Kelly, who didn’t show up at that final meeting, he definitely said and expressed repeatedly, ‘This violates the sanctity of marriage.’ I think it’s pretty accurate in that things were beginning to fracture behind closed doors.”


Cynthia’s documentary is available on DVD from and comes with 100 minutes of bonus footage, including deleted scenes and her trip with Stacie to the Oscars. To really understand Stacie and Laurel’s story, both the documentary and the feature work together, hand-in-hand.

“I couldn’t recreate her being a live, healthy police officer,” Cynthia said of the documentary. “In a live film we can do that.”

Bonus: Cynthia, her 14-year-old daughter and husband all appear in the film, as do Dane Wells and Stacie Andree. You can see Stacie, Cynthia and her daughter sitting in the room during the final freeholders meeting.

Stacie with the fictional Freeholderstacievia Twitter

Cynthia’s husband (who came up with the title Freeheld) is the honor guard standing next to the real Dane Wells, who is holding Laurel’s ashes at the funeral. 

Freeheld is in limited theaters now. It will hit theaters nationwide on October 16.

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