On Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died from pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg was known as a feminist trailblazer who, through her work at the American Civil Liberties Union and on the Supreme Court, went to great lengths to protect women’s reproductive rights and stop discrimination on the basis of sex.
Ginsburg was an inspiration to many and her death has left a gaping hole in the world. Here’s a look back at some of her biggest achievements throughout her career and some ways one can continue to honor her legacy.
Her biggest wins as an ACLU lawyer
Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 1975
Stephen Wiesenfeld learned that he didn’t qualify for Social Security survivor’s benefits for parents after his wife died because he was a man. Ginsburg took the case to the Supreme Court and argued that the section of the Social Security Act that denied fathers benefits because of their gender was unconstitutional. She won the case with a unanimous decision.
Edwards v. Healy, 1975
In this case, Ginsburg fought against a Louisiana law that exempted women from serving on juries unless they filed a written declaration with the desire to do so. She argued that this law violated the equal protection clause and the due process clause. The Supreme Court struck down the law in another case, stating that it was unfair.
Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973
This case set the basis against sex discrimination that would later be built upon in other court cases. Sharron Frontiero, who served in the U.S. military, applied for a dependent's allowance for her husband. The law at the time stated that wives of husbands in the military automatically became dependents, but husbands of wives in the military weren’t considered dependents unless they were dependent on their wives for one half of their support. Under this rule, Frontiero’s husband didn’t apply. Ginsburg argued in Frontiero’s favor and won.
Califano v. Goldfarb, 1977
Leon Goldfarb was a widower who applied for survivor’s benefits under the Social Security Act. His request was denied because he wasn’t reliant on his wife for half of his support at the time of her death. Ginsburg represented Goldfarb and in a 5-4 decision the law was ruled to be unconstitutional sex discrimination. This wouldn’t have been possible without Ginsburg’s work in earlier gender discrimination cases.
Her most important Supreme Court cases
In this case, Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion challenging the Virginia Military Institute’s admissions process. The school wouldn’t allow women in, even though Virginia said it would set up an equal military school for women. Ginsburg questioned the school’s merit, writing, “Women seeking and fit for a VMI-quality education cannot be offered anything less, under the Commonwealth’s obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection.” The case was a milestone for women’s rights and university admission policies.
Olmstead v. L.C., 1999
Johnathan Zimring fought on behalf of two women with mental disabilities who were ordered to stay in a psychiatric facility. He stated that under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the women had to be moved to a more community-based program. Ginsburg argued that states are required to place those with mental disabilities in community settings rather than institutions. This case provided an important victory to people with disabilities.
Although Ginsburg didn’t have the majority in this case, it’s one of her most famous dissents. Lilly Ledbetter wanted to sue her employer, Goodyear, for gender-based discrimination. The court told her she should’ve sued earlier instead of waiting until after the 180-day statutory charging period. Ginsburg felt so deeply about this dissent that she read it from the bench. She said, “In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”
This decision helped strike down the HB2 law in Texas that imposed a number of regulations on abortion clinics. Ginsburg said that this law would make it harder for women to access safe and legal abortions and that women in more desperate circumstances may look for more dangerous ways to obtain one.
Ways to honor her legacy
One of the best ways one can honor RBG’s legacy is by voting. Vote for the issues she fought for, vote for what she believed in and vote for more people like her to be in office. People who are registered to vote have the power to elect officials who have fought for women’s rights just like Ginsburg.
Call senators and representatives
Ginsburg's dying wish was that she not be replaced before the upcoming election. Calling senators and representatives to encourage them to vote against President Donald Trump’s appointee is a way to honor this wish.
Stand up for women’s rights
One of the biggest issues Ginsburg faced in her legal career was gender discrimination. She fought her whole life so that women could have the same rights as men. Continuing to stand up for issues that pertain to women’s rights would be a great way to honor her legacy.
Protect the laws she fought for
Roe v. Wade is a controversial case, but the court’s decision for this case was one that Ginsburg stood behind. This case made abortion legal, and one can honor her life by standing up for laws and court cases that she fought for throughout her career.
The death of power house Ginsburg has shaken many people. There isn’t one woman who hasn’t been affected by her court rulings, directly or indirectly. Remembering Ginsburg is only one part of continuing her legacy. Everyone has to continue to fight for everything she stood for.
Contact Morgan Vuknic at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts, and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.