Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as RBG, is the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and after the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, retired, she was the only woman on the court for a while. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and, in 1973, she became the ACLU’s general counsel.
The Women’s Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in over 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. All the while, RBG was a wife and mother. Within the first few years of this project, Ginsburg fought six cases of discrimination before the Supreme Court, and won five. She chose to focus not just on problems faced by women, but demonstrated that gender inequality was detrimental for both men and women. She took part in expanding the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to include women. She also argued for a widower with children who, when his wife passed, was unable to collect any benefits to help him support his dependents. She’s part of the reason that jury duty became mandatory for women as citizens of this nation, and why women in Oklahoma could legally drink at the same age as men. Ginsburg was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on April 14, 1980 to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This only ended when she took her seat on the Supreme Court in 1993.
She is known for being a very focused and determined speaker, using gender instead of sex to help focus her issues and dive into the much more complicated discussion of gender as something more than biological. She believes the government has no right to make choices for women when it comes to their bodies, including access to abortion, and tolerates no gender discrimination. She also is known for doing something almost unheard of, looking outside the U.S. for answers. Ginsburg is known to study the laws of other countries in order to help better the U.S. and to improve international relations when cases become messy.
Really, she has gone above and beyond in her fight for justice and in her fifteen years on the Supreme Court.
So what’s the big deal? Why am I writing about this women’s rights champion?
Well, recently, her health has been in question in a serious way. She has just returned from the hospital after breaking three ribs. She broke two in 2012 and has survived two bouts of cancer already. The fact is, as awesome as she is, she is getting older, and being one of four judges considered ‘liberal’ on the Supreme Court she already stands in the minority. This means that if her health should fail and a not-so-liberal judge were to be elected, well, in the worst case, the LGBT+ community and the women’s rights movement would lose a powerful ally.
Ginsburg has made no official announcement around concerns for her own health or suggestions that her position be handed over at this time. She has stated that she intends to “spend at least five more years on the Court.” However, many people are speculating that she will have to retire much sooner than this, meaning President Trump would be able to appoint another judge to the Supreme Court. After controversially appointing Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many people do not know how to feel and many more are afraid of whom else might be appointed.
The big question is, would women lose power? Would the equal rights movement lose momentum?
They don’t have to, if we keep electing and promoting the election of people who will fight for these issues. We can also fight these issues ourselves by petitioning and studying to do so. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Ginsburg did not do anything single handedly. It took time, effort, teachers, and a team of highly capable motivated people who wanted the same thing. If she can do all of the things above and then some, why can’t we? Go vote. Know your rights. Wright against injustice. You have a voice and you can use it. You can open up discussions of rights with friends and colleagues. You can write to or call your representatives. You can put up signs, volunteer your time, petition, fund raise. There are offices for multiple political parties in Moscow and there are multiple judges and lawyers who can help you right injustice many of them are in the University of Idaho’s school of law and you can start there if you want to get involved. You don’t have to be a lawyer, or a politician, but in the words of the Lorax, “If someone like you doesn’t care a whole lot, things aren’t going to get better they’re not. RBG cared and she followed her passion. Why can’t you do the same?