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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at age 87

Justice Ginsburg was a feminist icon and outspoken proponent of civil liberties throughout her storied career.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at age 87, setting up what promises to be an intense clash between Democrats and Republicans over her replacement and further fueling the country’s culture wars.

A larger-than-life figure beloved by the country’s liberals, Ginsburg was a feminist icon and outspoken proponent of civil liberties throughout her career, beginning with her role as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and one of the co-founders of its Women’s Rights Project during the 1970s. She has been credited with paving the way for legal advancements for women by arguing for expanding the scope the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Ginsburg was nominated to the high court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, ultimately being confirmed by a 96-3 vote of the U.S. Senate. On the court, she became a reliable pillar of the court’s liberal wing, outlasting fellow liberals David Souter and John Paul Stevens (who were ultimately replaced by current justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, both Obama nominees). 

Ginsburg was diagnosed with cancer four times and suffered from poor health in recent years, resulting in several hospitalizations. Her death now opens up a seat that, if filled by Republicans, could permanently swing the court in a conservative direction for at least an entire generation. Her absence is all but certain to move the court in a direction that gives extreme deference to corporate interests (who already have allies in the court’s conservative wing, as well in liberal justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer), demonstrates additional hostility to worker’s rights, could potentially endanger several social programs favored by Democrats, including the Affordable Care Act.

Mourning Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court

Paying respects to Justice Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court, Sept. 18, 2020 – Photo: Tony Frye

LGBTQ groups mourned the loss of one of their chief allies and champions on the high court.

“Today, we lost an unqualified, undisputed hero. She wasn’t just an iconic jurist, Justice Ginsburg was a force for good — a force for bringing this country closer to delivering on its promise of equality for all,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “Her decades of work helped create many of the foundational arguments for gender equality in the United States, and her decisions from the bench demonstrated her commitment to full LGBTQ equality. She was and will remain an inspiration to young people everywhere, a pop culture icon as the Notorious R.B.G. and a giant in the fight for a more just nation for all. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. What she represented  — fairness, justice and equality for all — we must all continue to fight for. Those principles are not transactional, they are fundamental to our democracy.”

Mourning Justice Ginsberg on the steps of the Supreme Court

A lone mourner on the steps of the Supreme Court, Sept. 18, 2020 – Photo: Todd Franson

“Today, the United States lost an irreplaceable giant,” Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings added. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made history as both an advocate and a Justice, striking down barriers not only for women but also for LGBTQ people and for others who for too long have been denied equal justice under the law”

We at Lambda Legal are devastated tonight. We have lost a friend, a hero, a champion with the passing of Justice Ginsburg,” Jennings continued. “This physically-tiny woman has left an enormous legacy in the fight for justice and a huge hole in our hearts. We pledge to carry on our piece of the fight she so valiantly led in her eight decades on this planet in her memory until equal justice under the law is a reality for everyone in this nation.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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