Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cultural, legal and feminist icon, died at age 87 from complications of metatastic cancer. Justice Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court for 27 years, becoming one of its most prominent members. Ginsburg was a strong advocate for gender equality and women’s rights throughout her lifelong career.
“I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that,” Ginsburg said.
Throughout her lifetime, Ginsburg endured many serious health issues but managed to fulfill her professional duties. She came back to work after her early stage colon cancer surgery in 1999. In 2009, the Supreme Court announced that she underwent the same process for pancreatic cancer. Later on, Ginsburg had surgery to remove two cancerous growths from her lung, had broken ribs, was diagnosed with liver cancer, hospitalized for a gallbladder condition and a bile-duct repair, and yet she was able to come back at work.
Until her 2018 lung surgery, Ginsburg did not miss any oral arguments and was determined to keep her personal medical struggles separate from her judicial duties.
Her determination and urge to fight against obstacles was prominent in her career and throughout her life. In the earlier stages of her career, she became aware of the fact that even an elite law degree was not enough to help a woman receive a job that was equal to men’s.
“I struck out on three grounds,” Ginsburg said. “I was Jewish, a woman and a mother. The first raised one eyebrow; the second, two; the third made me indubitably inadmissible.”
Ginsburg believed that the law was gender-blind and everyone was entitled to equal rights. Her early works provided constitutional protection from gender discrimination.
It was Reed v. Reed that recognized gender discrimination as a direct violation of the Constitution for the first time. This aimed to protect both men and women from experiencing such discrimination in the future. It was Wienberger vs. Wiesenfeld that ensured widowed men the same opportunities as women to care for their children against the highly discriminatory Social Security Act. It was Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. that led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 being signed into law by President Barack Obama. As a result, discriminatory pay or decisions could be filed as complaints without strict time restrictions.
Ginsburg kept a framed copy of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 on the wall of her chambers until she died.
Ginsburg’s death was inevitable. However, her death has caused a lot of uncertainty surrounding American politics. There is serious controversy surrounding the appointment of her replacement to the Supreme Court due to her death falling just before the 2020 presidential election.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg said to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, according to NPR.
Despite this wish, on Saturday President Trump introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Judge Barrett is a conservative whose ideology opposes Ginsburg’s.
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