No other Supreme Court Justice has ever captured the heart of America the way Ruth Bader Ginsburg has. Several–Hugo Black, William Douglas, Thurgood Marshall–are remembered, but Ginsburg is the one whose image has found its way into millions of homes not only in book covers but in t-shirts, earrings, socks, action figures, and, yes, even tattoos.
Elegant praise followed Ginsburg’s death on Thursday. She was a “a giant in heart and spirit,” “an icon of women’s rights,” “a warrior for gender equality.”
RBG’s 87 years spanned the transformation between women being ‘protected’ by laws that considered them incapable of carrying heavy packages or serving on juries to women becoming CEOs, generals, and judges.
Ginsburg was among the first women to attend Harvard Law School, the first to be part of the Harvard Law Review, and the first to become a tenured faculty member at Columbia School of Law.
As Cindy Jenks, president of the National Federation of Democratic Women wrote, “Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer and a monumental jurist that will likely never be matched in comparison to her work ethic, her wit and her dedication to fairness and justice for all persons.”
Saturday I learned that an Idahoan was the plaintiff in the first brief Ginsburg wrote for the Supreme Court. When Sally Reed’s son died, both she and her former husband sought to administer his estate. Idaho law at the time stated that “males must be preferred to females” in appointing administrators. Negating that law was a first step in a long fight for gender equity.
Another early victory got a father social security benefits after his wife died.
Working for the American Civil Liberty Union, Ginsburg took part in 34 Supreme Court cases and won five of the six major cases she argued before the Court.
Ginsburg had served 13 years on the D.C. Appellate Court when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court. She was approved by a vote of 97-3–an amazing show of unity.
A friend wrote that she wanted to grieve and celebrate RBG’s life, but the emotion she felt was fear.
University of Miami Professor Robyn Walsh reacted similarly to RBG’s death by writing, “It says a lot about us that the loss of one voice leaves women and their allies feeling so helpless. I am grateful for RBG, her advocacy, and her strength. I’m enraged that we find ourselves here.”
And women aren’t the only ones feeling fear and anger. As a justice, Ginsburg championed equal rights for all, including LGBTQ individuals, persons of color, immigrants, minorities, the poor, and the ill.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an argument to abolish the Affordable Care Act on November 10. Even with over 40,000 new Covid-19 cases per day and 7 million unemployed, a number of Republican-led states continue their efforts to destroy health care exchanges and shrink Medicaid.
Ginsburg’s voice will be missed.
President Trump is not worried about angering voters by ignoring RGB’s dying wish to have the appointment delayed until after the inauguration or by the hypocrisy of senators who claimed President Obama couldn’t appoint a nominee because the 2016 election was only 9 months away.
But he should worry about voters’ reaction if he fails to name a worthy candidate. Another Brett Kavanaugh would be the ultimate insult to RBG’s memory.
Those events will unfold in time. Now is a time to enjoy basking in being part of an America that loved a brilliant woman–one admired for “her work ethic, her wit and her dedication to fairness and justice for all persons.”