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Ken Cuccinelli’s Involvement With Hardline Misogynists

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, August 30, 2013 9:16 EDT
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[Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia. Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]
 
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The Washington Post has a story up about the gross depths of Ken Cuccinelli’s fucked up, misogynist worldview. It’s not just his dogged attempts to shut down legal abortion single-handedly in the state, but now it’s been revealed that he has ties to the “fathers’ rights” movement, a group of men whose political goals all point back to the single purpose of making it harder for women to rid themselves of controlling and often abusive men. They fight protections for victims of domestic violence, educate each other on novel ways to sue your ex-wife so that you can stay in her life and make it miserable, demand stricter divorce laws so a woman can’t leave you just because she wants to, and push to reform child support laws so that it becomes more expensive and therefore more difficult for women to leave bad marriages. How well they conceal what they’re up to varies a lot—some of them are remarkably good at portraying themselves as humble fathers who simply want to be a part of their children’s lives, and whose ability to use said children to control and punish their ex-wives is simply a coincidence—but what’s interesting is that Ken Cuccinelli’s buddy, Ron Grignol, doesn’t do a very good job at hiding his stripes at all.

Here’s what the Post said about their relationship:

Two weeks after he was sworn in as Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II went to court one last time as a private-practice lawyer.

Fellow lawyers viewed the appearance at the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in January 2010 as unusual because attorneys general almost never handle private cases. At the time, Cuccinelli’s deputy told The Washington Post that the case involved “some sensitive issues and some child witnesses, and the client wanted some sensitivity, and he wanted Ken Cuccinelli, so he finished out that matter.”

Cuccinelli’s office didn’t say so then, but the client was Ron M. Grignol Jr., a former House of Delegates candidate embroiled in a custody dispute with his ex-wife.

Grignol is also the former leader of Fathers for Virginia, which seeks to “empower divorced fathers as equal partners in parenting,” and of a second group that contends that men are frequently victimized by false allegations of domestic abuse. Grignol did not respond to requests for comment about the groups, which some women’s rights organizations have accused of distorting the facts about domestic violence.

While most men who identify as “men’s rights activists” are blowhards who concentrate their “activism” to bitching online about how women aren’t submissive enough or don’t give them the sex they deserve, fathers rights activists actually do things like lobbying that have political influence. Almost all of them are bitter divorced men, and a lot of them have ugly custody battles with their ex-wives that they’re on the losing end of because judges find credible evidence to believe they were batterers. Evidence which is invariably dismissed as women spouting hysterical lies, because bitches, amirite?

Cuccinelli’s buddy, Grignol, really, really hates the Violence Against Women Act in particular. If you watch that video, pay special attention to how angry the very idea of a restraining order makes him. As I’ve said before, there’s no reason to get that bent out of shape over a restraining order unless you want to hurt and control the person who filed it. If you’re not actually doing anything wrong, the restraining order is meaningless in all practical senses, because you were already leaving the person alone because you, being a good person, don’t bother people who have told you to go away. He also is downright innovative in coming up with schemes to scare women into staying in marriages, even abusive ones.

A third alternative to No Fault calls for state laws identifying the spouse committed to saving the marriage as the responsible spouse. The state would give the responsible spouse half to two-thirds custody time of any children, if desired, as well as 60 to 100 percent of family assets. A judge would determine the exact split. By definition, the parent who files for divorce could not be designated as the responsible spouse because divorce harms the economic, social, and emotional welfare of children. This feature represents an improvement over the Parental Divorce Reduction Act, which avoids any assignment of moral fault or blame, but it also makes the proposal more controversial.

The primary authors of this proposal are Ron Grignol, a Virginia aerospace engineer who, after enduring a divorce he did not want, ran for the state legislature to reform No Fault, and Michael Ross, an emergency-room physician who saw how broken family life led to accidents and trauma, violence and mental illness, and child abuse. A second element of Grignol and Ross’s proposal rests on the assumption that most parents are “fit” and want the best for their children. All “fit parents” would be awarded at least one-third time with children, or five overnights every two weeks. That would more than double the present access to children of non-custodial parents, another improvement over the PDRA model.

Because of these two provisions, the Responsible Spouse/Fit Parent proposal will significantly neutralize existing incentives to divorce. Women file for two-thirds of all divorce petitions on the assumption they will get custody, even if they are guilty of adultery. But what would happen if an unfaithful wife filing for divorce knew that her husband, who did not want a divorce, would receive 50 percent of custody time and most family assets? What if a husband, who is considering running off with another woman, learns that, after filing for divorce, he might be awarded none of his family property, rather than the standard 50 percent under No Fault? Surely, adding a cost to No Fault in lost custody and family assets might prompt a majority of divorcing spouses to reconsider.

Or what if a woman, who is being beat by her husband, wants to leave but knows that in her state, she can only do so by giving custody over to her abusive husband? “Fathers’ rights” assholes are good at concocting hypotheticals that redirect your attention away from the issues that most concern them, but make no mistake, this kind of law would largely function as a tool for abusive men to intimidate their wives into staying. They may talk a big game about hypothetical philandering husbands, but at the end of the day, the most significant result of a law like this would be that abused women would be forced to stay out of a dual fear of losing custody and a state law that forcibly impoverishes someone if she files for divorce. Look at that proposal again and think about it: Even if a woman works and pays half or more of the mortgage, if her husband is beating her, the price to leave the marriage is to relinquish all her earnings and custody of her children. You can even attach a bunch of meaningless caveats to it, such as making exceptions if he’s been convicted of domestic violence, and that would still be the end result. Right now, judges in divorce cases can look over evidence that there’s been abuse, even without criminal charges, and determine custody based on that. This sort of law would be there to keep them from doing that most of the time.

These are the kind of men that Ken Cuccinelli is in bed with. Grignol, according to the Post, is just part of a large network of “fathers rights” activists that have the ear of the obsessive anti-choice misogynist that wants to be Virginia governor. While it’s no surprise to myself or regular readers of this blog that such an avid anti-choicer would also be friendly with forces that want to rewrite family law so that leaving abusive husbands is harder to do, I hope that this knowledge helps the larger public see what’s going on with men like Ken Cuccinelli.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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