Editorial: RBG – the best of what America can be

Sep 23, 2020


The Supreme Court bench draped for the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via AP)

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away Sept. 18 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. The second woman ever to serve on the highest court, she leaves behind a legacy as a passionate advocate for women’s rights and a skilled jurist. We worry that in the ongoing, bitter, partisan fight to name Ginsburg’s replacement, America might forget to reflect on the life and work of a true American hero. 

After graduating among a nearly all male class at Harvard Law School, Ginsburg went to work for the American Civil Liberties Union . While overcoming the sexism pervasive in the field of law, she made significant contributions to ending legal gender discrimination. As a litigator, she was instrumental in persuading the Court to hold that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. She continued systematically to take on sexist laws across the country and successfully argued their unconstitutionality. It is not hyperbole to say that she is almost single-handedly responsible for the end of gender discrimination under the law in the United States. All of this was before she was appointed to the federal judiciary. 

As a judge, first on the D.C. Circuit Court and later on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg authored some of the most consequential opinions of the era. In the later part of her career, when she served in the liberal minority on the Court, she became renowned for her eloquent and passionate dissenting opinions. She soon began to hold a new position in the American popular imagination: the Notorious RBG. And, notorious she was. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a life of devoted public service and ardent activism. She is an example of the very best of what America can be. Overcoming the ills of sexism in American culture – ills that are still all too present we might add – she became one of the most universally revered jurists in the country. She leaves a hole on the Court and in the American consciousness too large ever to be filled by any one person. It is our duty to come together and pick up where she left off. We must  continue the fight for the end of gender discrimination and the toxic sexism in our culture. It’s the only way to adequately honor such a towering legacy. Rest in power, RBG. 


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