For more on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, check out our special report.
Our hearts broke with news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg death’s last week. But our resolve is stronger than ever to fight for her legacy of grit, equality, and justice for all.
For women and girls, the loss of Justice Ginsburg is a unique grief. We lost a feminist icon and role model who used her voice and legal talents to lift us up and to fight for a world that recognized our equal stature and dignity. She dared to argue that men and women should be treated equally in all circumstances.
As leaders of the House’s Democratic women members, we know our path to becoming members of Congress today would have been tougher had it not been for Justice Ginsburg’s brilliant legal strategy that built a foundation for women’s equality under the law. When Justice Ginsburg entered law school, there were laws on the books prohibiting women from serving on juries, accessing contraception, and qualifying for credit. At just five feet tall, Justice Ginsburg lightened our load and gave us shoulders to stand on.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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As the founding director of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, Justice Ginsburg contributed to 34 Supreme Court cases, winning five of six that she argued before the Court. She took on laws that claimed to protect women but in practice discriminated against them, stating, “The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.”
Justice Ginsburg was a woman who lived and breathed discrimination on the basis of sex in her personal life. She was denigrated by her law school dean for taking a man’s place, denied a job for due to her pregnancy, paid less than her male colleagues, and passed over for employment despite being first in her class.
Yet she took that personal humiliation and rejection and turned it into legal progress for all women, working to ensure we are no longer treated as second-class citizens. Justice Ginsburg understood that women’s and men’s fates are intertwined, that equality benefits everyone by allowing us to thrive free from the heavy burdens of society’s limitations. In one seminal case as an attorney, she fought for a caregiver’s right to Social Security survivor’s benefits so that he could raise his son, challenging institutionalized assumptions that childrearing is women’s work and proving that gendered societal roles hurt us all.
From the bench, Justice Ginsburg continued her steadfast support for women’s equality. She forcefully wrote that women should not be discriminated against in college admissions, that they deserved equal pay for equal work, and that they should not be denied their bodily autonomy or reproductive rights.
It is both painful and wrong that we cannot honor this titan and her life’s work without the existential fear of what comes next, all because of Republican hypocrisy and a refusal to honor Justice Ginsburg’s “most fervent” dying wish that she not be replaced until the next president is installed. The world that she imagined and helped build is under threat, with access to health care, reproductive justice, voting rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, gun reform, and our planet at grave risk.
Justice Ginsburg has taken us far, but we have miles to go before we sleep. Many are asking: What now? How can we most effectively and powerfully register our dissent? In the spirit of Justice Ginsburg, it’s time to be notorious. In the spirit of John Lewis, it’s time to get into good trouble. We must rise up. March in the streets, hold vigils, register voters, phone-bank, fundraise, talk to friends and neighbors, and most importantly, vote—in the name and legacy of Justice Ginsburg, for the world she fought for, and for the world we have yet to achieve.
On Friday, Justice Ginsburg had the distinction of being the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. Even in her passing, she shattered a marble ceiling. We know that Justice Ginsburg cared most not about being first, but about ensuring she would not be the last. Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for paving the way for all of us.
We will carry your mantle forward and onward.