Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, provided by the Supreme Court’s government website.

On Sept.18, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice, died due to complications from metastatic pancreas cancer. 


Ginsburg was the second woman to be appointed Supreme Court Justice in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, at a time when women were discriminated against in law professions. She also served as a Judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in D.C. for 13 years.


In all those years, Ginsburg was known as a strong writer, having written many majority opinions (an explanation of the reasoning behind the majority decision of the court) and dissents (an opinion written by a justice who disagrees with the majority opinion) in regards to gender discrimination, reproductive rights, voting rights and health care.


Ginsburg was known as being outspoken in her strongly worded dissents, particularly those of  the 2007 decisions of Gonzales v. Carhart and Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In those dissents she took a stand advocating for reproductive rights and eliminating the pay gap between men and women, and was regarded by many as a feminst icon. 


“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was part of a larger project of the collective urgency to cultivate equity and justice in all forms. She advocated gender equality through the law,” women’s studies professor Diaz-Kozlowski said.


Diaz-Kozlowski said part of her job is to show the connection between Ginsburg’s work and the ongoing political project that feminism is. 


“We need more cultural icons in the law and sciences,” Diaz-Kozlowski said. “Ginsburg used her platform to push for gender equality.”


The decisions that the Supreme Court and its justices make can have a massive impact, with multiple landmark cases having been made during Ginsburg’s tenure. This includes: upholding national healthcare, legalizing gay marriage, and whether a corporation has the same rights as an individual.


Ginsburg stood out from the rest of the court by saying small things like  “I dissent” instead of the conventional “I respectfully dissent”, or by articulating strong liberal opinions. 


In the United States v. Virginia (1996) case, regarding men-only admission policies at a state-run university, the Supreme Court decided that the policy violated the equal protection clause. 


Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion that “Generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”


Diaz-Kozlowski believes that people will be quoting what Ginsburg said for a long time, in academia and in the media. People like Ginsburg are why Diaz-Kozlowski teaches her students to be good writers.


“Writing is power,” Diaz Kozlowski said. “Opinions create a precedent.”


Simply placing a woman in her seat will not replace her, as Ginsburg was not only a Supreme Court Justice who happened to be a woman, but was also known as a strong writer, a pragmatic liberal, and an outspoken advocate for equality. 


Diaz-Kozlowski added, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t just a Supreme Court Justice though, she was also somebody’s grandma and somebody’s mom.”


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