I Dissent

The life and death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I Dissent

Nicole Perry

On Friday, September 18, the revered and admirable Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87. Ginsburg was undeniably an incredible woman, working tirelessly for equality and liberty. Even before her time as a justice, she was a fierce advocate for gender equality, arguing several landmark cases in front of the Supreme Court in the 1970s. After her appointment to the court in 1993, her pursuit of women’s rights was given a larger platform and a more consequential stage. Her work on the court included upholding the Affordable Care Act and voting in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Throughout her life, she became a pop culture icon and a voice for the feminist movement, serving as an inspiration for people of all genders, ages, and nationalities. 


“She showed me that I could fight for a more equitable world, and fight for the people that cannot,” Pia Ibsen (9) said. “She showed me that I could be unapologetically myself, and work for what I believe in.” 


Ginsburg opened doors for women across the country, tearing down countless sex-based laws. She redefined the way our country viewed gender and was unafraid to criticize discriminatory laws. She fought for financial independence for women and has often been praised for her work on gender laws that consider both men and women. Prior to her days on the Supreme Court, she wrote a legal brief that solidified the spread of 14th amendment protections to women during Reed vs. Reed in 1971. Additionally, she worked on behalf of men in Weinberger vs. Wiesenfeld in 1975, where she asserted that men should receive Social Security benefits after the death of their spouse when previously only women had qualified for the benefit, claiming that the Social Security Act was discriminatory in its practices. Through her intelligent and effective arguments, Ginsberg pushed the country closer to gender equality than it had ever been before.


Due to her being such a monumental figure in the United States, and effecting positive change in millions of people’s lives, her death has been a harsh blow to Americans nationwide. Memorials were formed across the country, spotlighting her iconic collars and phrases often associated with the late justice such as “I dissent” and “Notorious RBG.” One of the largest memorials was formed in D.C. on the steps of the Supreme Court. Mourners arrived in droves, leaving flowers, signs, and chalk messages, all dedicated to Ginsburg and the trail she blazed. Her death also sparked a surge in voter registration, most prominently featuring women. 


Ginsburg’s death not only leaves the nation in a state of mourning but also leaves a Supreme Court seat waiting to be filled. Both parties are seeking to gain control of the seat, raising the stakes and the turmoil before an already critical presidential election. Republicans hope to appoint Judge Amy Coney Barrett and secure a 6-3 Republican majority in the Supreme Court, while Democrats aim to postpone the filling of the seat until after the 2020 election season. This precedent was set when Justice Scalia passed away in early 2016 and Republicans argued that no new justice should be appointed until after the presidential election, still 10 months away at the time. They refused to even interview Obama’s nominee in 2016 while Judge Barrett’s hearings have started less than a month before the 2020 election. There have also been discussions of Democrats expanding the court if the seat is filled by Judge Barrett, a drastic action that could have long-lasting repercussions. This seat is going to be key to the future of the United States as the Supreme Court approaches a vote on the Affordable Care Act and raises the subject of women’s reproductive rights, both controversial topics in their own right. With political ploys and power-grabs surrounding the seat, the future of the supreme court is unclear and any decision is sure to evoke conflict.


Despite media coverage focusing heavily on the potential of the newly opened seat, the loss of such a powerful and well-known figure will undoubtedly have lasting effects. Ginsburg’s story of grit and perseverance will likely inspire generations to come. It is impossible to understand the full scope of her impact, but the United States, and the world, wouldn’t be where it is today were it not for the work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  As only the second woman ever on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg has emboldened women everywhere since her appointment. It is clear that her death has led to an increase in women’s desire for recognition.


“When I heard the news that she had passed, I did what anyone would do, I cried. But after a few hours of this grief, I collected myself,” Ibsen said on the subject. “And I decided to stand up and fight, as she would want us to do.”