The impact Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left on the contours of American society are unmatched, unprecedented, and too numerous to count. Below are a few examples of her impact, both in and out of the courtroom.
- ACLU Women’s Rights Project: in 1972, Justice Ginsburg founded the Women’s Rights Project in the ACLU. One of its earliest successes was the litigation of Reed v. Reed, which “challeng[ed] the automatic preference of men over women as administrators of estates”. The court ruled in favor of the plantiff, whose brief was written by Justice Ginsburg herself. This was the first time that sex discrimination was viewed as a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and set a major precedent for future legal rulings.
- Supreme Court Nomination: Justice Ginsburg’s nomination to the court was a victory for women and people everywhere. She was nominated in 1993 and served 27 years. She was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and was a champion for gender equity and civil rights and liberties throughout her career.
- Virginia Military Institute: in 1996, Justice Ginsburg wrote the Supreme Court’s 7-1 opinion ruling that the Institute could no longer remain an all-male institution. She wrote, “Reliance on overbroad generalizations…estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description”.
- Lilly Ledbetter Dissent: Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyear (2007) concerning back pay for those who experience employment discrimination was so compelling and directed at Congress that it spurred the creation of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill passed by Obama in 2009. This law overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in that case, which severely restricted the time period for filing complaints of employment discrimination concerning compensation.
- Professorship at Columbia University School of Law: after graduating tied for first in her class, Justice Ginsburg returned a little over a decade later, as the first female professor with tenure at Columbia. She also taught at Rutgers Law School.
Justice Ginsburg’s life’s work majorly contributed to progress in civil rights and liberties and gender equity. The country mourns her loss while celebrating her legacy as a champion for the feminist movement.
Sources: ACLU, The New Yorker 9/18/20, NPR 9/18/20; EEOC 2009