The notorious RBG: her legacy, and what we do next

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 Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) passed away on Sept. 18, 2020. She began her legal career in the early 1960s and fought for equal rights for all right up until the final years of her life.  

     Unfortunately, her death has become politicized instead of a time of mourning. Some conservatives have outright denied the positive influence she had on American society. Instead of mourning a loss of life — a life that fought hard for equality within the law — there were many people who chose to criticize her existence and celebrate her passing. This is unacceptable when anyone dies, but especially someone who was influential in demanding equality. 

      RBG began her education in law at Harvard Law School where she was one of the only women and, shortly after, transferred to Columbia Law School where she graduated first in her class. Despite being underestimated as a woman when education was for men and when there was no place for women in law, Ginsburg persisted and prevailed.  

     Ginsburg’s first position as a lawyer was volunteering with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It was during this position that she argued her first case to the Supreme Court, arguing on the basis on sex and equality.  

     But she did not stop there. Throughout RBG’s career, she fought for equal rights for all, not only women but men, LGBTQ+ people and people of color. 

     These are just a few of the causes that Ginsburg helped to champion during her career that lasted nearly half of a century: 

1974: Equal Credit Opportunity Act — A law that allowed women to apply for bank accounts and other benefits without a male co-signer. 

1978: Pregnancy Discrimination Act — A law that made it illegal to discriminate against pregnant women in the workplace.  

2013: Shelby County v. Holder — RBG dissented on this ruling, a ruling that took away Congress needing to approve state-level voting requirements. Since then, voting has become more difficult for poor, Black and Latino people. 

2015: Obergefell v. Hodges — The landmark ruling that empowered LGBTQ+ people across the country to marry. 

     Though she advocated for equality in all areas of life, a key trait of RBG is her advocacy for equal gender rights. According to Global Citizen, Ginsburg helped pass 5 important laws to support gender equality: 

  1. Employers cannot discriminate against employees based on gender or reproductive choices. ACLU Women’s Rights Project’s attorney, Susan Deller Ross and Ginsburg pushed to have pregnancy discrimination recognized as a form of sex discrimination, according to the ACLU. 
  2. State-funded schools must admit women. In 1996, Ginsburg led the ruling decision in the United States v. Virginia case. “A gender line … helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage,” she said.  
  3. Women have the right to financial independence and equal benefits. “Feminism [is the] notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by man-made barriers,” Ginsburg said in her 2016 book “My Own Words.” 
  4. Men are entitled to the same caregiving and Social Security rights as women. This was her first case argued in front of the Supreme Court, in which she was fighting for a man’s right as a caregiver.  
  5. Juries must include women. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” Ginsburg told USA Today in 2009. “It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” 

     Ginsburg protected women’s reproductive rights time and time again. Prior to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, many women died due to dangerous and illegal abortions, and rape victims had no choice but to carry unwanted pregnancies to full term.  

      Ginsburg’s absence leaves room for anti-choice and anti-women judges to infiltrate the Supreme Court. According to CNBC, President Trump has stated that he will appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. This means that voting in the 2020 election is more important than ever. We cannot let the legacy of Ginsburg be forgotten. 

     RBG fought up until her dying moments to uphold the law and stand for equality. Ginsburg’s last request, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until after the election.”

Our democracy must honor this, not only because Ginsburg requested this, but because it is a tradition that has been upheld in previous elections. 

CNN reports that when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in 2016, republicans refused to honor President Obama’s nomination for Justice Garland. It was not until after Trump was officially sworn in as president in 2017 that Trump’s nomination of Justice Gorsuch replaced Scalia.  

     White supremacy, sexism, homophobia, racism and every other form of hatred has no place in the hearts of American people, but especially not in our democracy, our White House, our Supreme Court. 


Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.