When I heard about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing last week, I immediately wept and have since felt a profound sense of grief. Justice Ginsburg was the most important lawyer and jurist of our time, and possibly in the history of the United States. As a woman and an attorney, she has been both my personal and professional hero.
As Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt recently said when honoring Ginsburg, “It is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime.” As an attorney, a jurist and a friend, Ginsburg worked to create a new world where equality under the law extended to women and the marginalized.
As a law student, Ginsburg paved the way for women. In her class of 561, she was one of only nine women. It is a fitting tribute to Ginsburg that women are now the majority in U.S. law schools, making up 52% of enrollments in 2018.
Ginsburg won five of the six cases she argued before the U.S. Supreme Court as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, helping the court understand and conclude that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment must necessarily extend to prohibit discrimination based on gender.
As the second woman to be appointed to the nation’s high court, equality was Ginsburg’s jurisprudence. She believed that the law could and should be interpreted to create a more perfect union, including equal rights for all regardless of gender, race, or disability.
With her opinion in United States v. Virginia, she ensured women equal access to education. With her dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., she called out pay discrimination based on sex and urged Congress to take the necessary steps to address ongoing gender pay discrimination appropriately, which it later did when it passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
Ginsburg’s body of work also resulted in other significant gains for women, including them being able to have credit cards in their names, to get mortgages and loans, and to be able to rent property.
As a friend, Ginsburg embraced those who were different from her. One of her best friends was her colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, a person whose views were strikingly (and publicly) different from her own.
We can honor Justice Ginsburg’s incredible legacy by taking the following steps in the coming days and weeks:
1) Vote for a president, senators, representatives and local leaders who respect and honor women and whose platforms and records promote gender equality.
2) Call and write our senators and representatives in the Utah Legislature and voice our support for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
3) Develop and maintain friendships with people who have views that diverge from our own.
Let us each work to help ensure that the world Justice Ginsburg created continues to be a reality.
Alison Adams is an attorney who lives and works in Utah.