With each judicial decision, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg--a.k.a "Notorious RBG" gives the United States “one more chance” to be better.
At She-Compass, we make it a point to celebrate strong women. Just last month we published an article about revolutionary women who refuse to behave—today we add another name to the list.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or “The Notorious RBG” as many lovingly call her, is one of the strongest and most influential women in the public eye.
Having become only the second female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in August 1993 and serving from 2006-2009 as the only female justice, Ginsburg is a self-proclaimed “flaming feminist litigator” and equal rights activist.
On Wednesday Ginsburg began hearing final arguments regarding the travel ban on majority Muslim nations imposed last year by President Trump, a ruling from which she dissented in December 2017. The ruling blocks citizens traveling from countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea from coming into the United States. Ginsburg has long made it clear that she champions women and minority groups and her dedication to the upward mobility of these kinds of individuals will likely impact her final June 2018 decision.
All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from the upcoming documentary, RBG
On May 4 the world will have another reason to follow Ginsburg's achievements when RBG, the documentary about her life hits theaters. Read on as we highlight a few of the legal battles spearheaded by Ginsburg that sparked transformative social change.
Men Only? Not on Ginsburg’s Watch
It was just 22 years ago that women were not allowed to attend Virginia Military Institute (VMI), at the time an all-male public undergraduate university. The school claimed in state court records that “women would not be able to withstand the rigors of its training programs,” and subsequently “created an alternative program for women at Mary Baldwin College.” When the United States sued the school for violating the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, it was Ginsburg who helped make history with her ruling.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“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,” she wrote in her 1996 decision. Cadet Makayla Diamond, 20, from Virginia agreed, noting that Ginsburg’s ruling helped lead the way for her future. "I'm very thankful because without Ruth Bader Ginsburg I might not be here,” said Diamond. “She allowed all these women to not only come here but to succeed in whatever they wanted to do."
My Unique Mind Makes The Right Decisions
Ginsburg made another mark in the fight for the rights of marginalized people when she ruled on a landmark case in 1999. When Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women diagnosed with mental disabilities, testified that they were held in a Georgia hospital against their will despite being medically cleared, it was Ginsburg whose ruling made it clear that this was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Tasked with writing the majority statement, Ginsburg explained the 6-3 decision, noting that keeping individuals with mental disabilities in institutions rather than in their own communities was discriminatory and should not be tolerated.
“Under Title II of the ADA,” she wrote, “states are required to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions when the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate.”
"I am forever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today it's eyes would be open tomorrow." - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
When Dissent Equals Dignity
“Cake-gate” won’t be the first time Ginsburg will be faced with ruling on a case that reeks of discrimination. The Supreme Court is expected to decide in June if a Colorado-based business has the right to withhold cake-baking services for a same-sex couple, citing religious beliefs. No doubt she’ll draw on her previous experience from the Hobby Lobby case of 2014, in which the private chain of arts and crafts stores successfully argued that the Affordable Care Act violates the First Amendment because it requires employee coverage for contraceptives including the “morning-after pill," which the company equates to abortion, a position incongruent with the company’s religious beliefs.
After the Court returned with a majority-male 5-4 decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, Ginsburg fought back with a 35-page dissent that showed her clear disdain for the verdict and reflected the importance of a woman’s right to steer her own course when making healthcare decisions.
“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations,” wrote Ginsburg, drawing a line in the sand between religion and the workplace.
“I would conclude that the connection between the families’ religious objections and the contraceptive coverage requirement is too attenuated to rank as substantial. Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.”
Ginsburg is passionate about equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, or ability, and has proven her commitment from the moment she was appointed to the Supreme Court. After 25 years on the bench and still raising her voice at 85 years young, Ginsburg is showing no signs of stepping down any time soon. As she said in a 2015 New York Times article, "I happen to be the oldest. But John Paul Stevens didn’t step down until he was 90." We hope she sticks around for a very long time and continues efforts to ensure that justice is served.
Sources: Teen Vogue, CNN, Bustle, Mother Jones