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Remembering A Civil Rights Titan

“She should have died hereafter.” This quote from Macbeth immediately came to mind when we received the sad news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing on Friday. 

Ginsburg’s death came on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The holiday marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays, a period of reflection, repentance, and renewal. It also came in the last stretch of the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, a period fraught with anxiety and riven with last-minute political machinations. 

Bader Ginsburg had served on the nation’s highest Court since 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton appointed her. Throughout her decades on the Court, Ginsburg was a solid force for gender and racial equality, issuing dissents in the Shelby County v Holder case in which the Court’s conservative majority eviscerated the Voting Rights Act (2013) and in the Hobby Lobby case (2013)  in which the Court’s conservative justices ruled that employer restrictions on health coverage to meet their female employees’ reproductive options are lawful. 

Among her achievements both before and during her term on the Court ensuring greater equity for women were the 6-3 United States v. Virginia (1996) case on gender bias in college admissions, for which she wrote the majority opinion. 

Prior to her appointment, Ginsburg also argued and won five gender discrimination cases before the Court.

  • Reed v Reed (1971)
  • Frontiero v Richardson (1973)
  • Weinberger v Wiesenfeld (1975)
  • Craig v Boren (1976)
  • Califano v Goldfarb (1977)

Together, the cases secured equal protection rights for women under the U.S.’s 14th Amendment, including the right to obtain credit in their own names, the right for pregnant women to work as well as the right to obtain Social Security benefits and military compensation without sex-based discrimination. 

Though short in stature, Ginsburg leaves a mighty legacy. Her passing understandably arouses fear and concern among many—in addition to the deep sorrow of those who knew her well—for what comes next. However, we are hopeful this can be a time of larger scale renewal and refocus.

We salute Justice Ginsburg, and are determined to carry her work forward. To paraphrase the Justice, we will continue to use the talent we have to do our work to the very best of our ability.