Correction: This letter has been corrected from its original form. The letter originally referred Hartford Courant columnist as Chris Keating, when in fact the author was Kevin Rennie.
Sean Goldrick served two terms as a Democratic member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation. He lives in Riverside.
The word “Courage” is printed on every one of State Senator Alex Kasser’s campaign signs. But most people probably have no idea how much courage Alex has had to muster.
On Domestic Violence Awareness Day, Senator Kasser explained her own experience. Ten years ago, Alex Kasser came out to her husband as gay. He told her that if she tried to divorce him, he would take full custody of their children. As Alex explained, she “felt powerless and terrified of losing my children. Never ask a woman, ‘why did you stay?’ We do not choose to stay. We think we have no choice. I stayed for eight more years.”
Alex continued, “When we do finally gather the strength to leave, and pursue our right to freedom, that’s when the danger increases.” Senator Kasser’s personal understanding of that danger is why she introduced “Jennifer’s Law” (SB 442).
The bill is named for her constituent, Jennifer Dulos, who is missing, and presumed to have been murdered by her estranged husband after she filed for divorce. Senator Kasser’s bill seeks to expand the definition of domestic violence beyond physical violence and stalking to include other behaviors, including “coercive control,” which includes intimidation, psychological abuse, isolation, threats to take the children away, and financial abuse.
As Senator Kasser explains, “When a woman asserts her independence, the old methods of coercive control no longer work, so an abuser escalates. Sometimes to physical violence.”
Jennifer Dulos saw the danger she faced when she filed for divorce. “I am afraid of my husband,” reads the affidavit attached to a custody order. “I know that filing for divorce and filing this motion will enrage him. I know he will retaliate by trying to harm me in some way…I am afraid for my safety and the physical safety and emotional well-being of our minor children.”
Senator Kassser’s experience is not that different from Jennifer Dulos’ and many other women who leave abusive spouses. The abuse does not stop after a woman leaves. It escalates and turns into other forms – including litigation and the filing of motions in court that torment and humiliate the victim publicly. Senator Kasser has had to summon the courage not only to fight her personal battle in divorce court, but also to stand up to the abusive and misogynistic attacks of the Connecticut GOP. The Connecticut Republican Party is filling Facebook with attack videos, approved by her opponent, Ryan Fazio, that quote the accusations made in court filings by Senator Kasser’s estranged husband. The coordinated attacks include current and former GOP politicians, including former Republican state senator and Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, the GOP-backed “No Tolls CT” founder Patrick Sasser, and Greenwich GOP chairman, Dan Quigley, all of whom are spreading claims from Kasser’s estranged husband.
Is it any wonder that the GOP would decide to attack a woman who is locked in a bitter divorce battle, instead of supporting her? Does it surprise anyone that the GOP would ignore the fate of Jennifer Dulos, who was killed by her abusive spouse, and turn a blind eye to the thousands of women and children in Connecticut whose lives are damaged by powerful and controlling men?
And is it any wonder that the Connecticut GOP would engage in such a hateful coordinated attack on a Gay woman?
It is the position of the national GOP that the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which granted Gay Americans the right to marry, was wrongly decided.
Not only have two Republican Supreme Court justices called for Obergefell’s reversal, but Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett refuses to defend marriage equality. And Ryan Fazio agrees, writing in The Federalist that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling is “offensive to the rule of law.”
Senator Kasser has displayed the courage to stand up for women in countless ways. She voted to increase Connecticut’s minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024. That helps women, because fully 60% of all minimum wage workers are women. According to the Center for American Progress, that boost in the minimum wage will help more than a quarter million Connecticut working women make ends meet. Not a single Republican voted yes to help those women.
Senator Kasser stood up for women by voting for Paid Family Leave, making Connecticut the eighth state to enact this pro-women legislation. Working mothers will now be able to take time off- with pay- to stay home and care for their newborn babies, a sick child, or an ailing spouse or parent. No longer will working mothers have to decide between caring for their families and going back to work to pay for food and rent. Every developed and developing country on the planet offers paid family leave- except the United States. Every GOP senator voted no. Fazio is on record that he will vote to eliminate paid family leave in Connecticut.
Senator Kasser is standing up for women’s reproductive rights, earning endorsements from NARAL-Pro Choice Connecticut and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. That’s critically important, because not only has the Trump administration implemented a “gag rule” on all family planning organizations receiving federal Title X funds, leading Planned Parenthood to reject federal funding, but Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who claims that the Roe v Wade decision was “barbaric.” When, not if, the Republican-dominated Supreme Court overturns Roe, it will be up to each state’s legislature to protect women’s reproductive rights. Senator Kasser will; Fazio won’t.
Senator Kasser has proven herself a champion for all women- women who face abusive spouses, working women who need higher wages, women who are new mothers, women who deserve to be treated as free and equal citizens capable of making their own decisions. And Senator Kasser has proven herself a champion for all women facing abusive attacks from misogynistic Republicans. That takes courage. And courage is what defines Senator Alex Kasser.