When America lost Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the world lost a symbol of justice, brilliance, and goodness. She was petite in size, but monumental in impact. Her passing is an incalculable loss for our democracy and for all who strive to build a better future for our children.
Justice Ginsburg became an icon over the course of her quarter century as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Her towering intellect and devotion to the American promise of equality and opportunity for all was an inspiration to millions. How beautiful it was to see that appreciation reflected in the countless letters, flowers, and tributes blanketing the front of the Supreme Court after her passing.
Every American family benefited from the courage and brilliance of Justice Ginsburg, particularly from her tireless advocacy in the fight for women’s equality. Sixty years ago, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was rejected to be a Supreme Court clerk despite her outstanding credentials, including being one of the first women members of the Harvard Law Review. For the next six decades, as one of the greatest legal minds in our country, she would help lead the fight for women’s equality, whether as co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, arguing cases before the Supreme Court, or sitting on the court as the second-ever woman justice. Her opinions unequivocally cemented the precedent that all men and women are created equal.
One week after her passing, I had the honor of holding a lying-in-state ceremony for Justice Ginsburg in the Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol, an honor reserved for our greatest American heroes, including most recently Congressman John Lewis, the conscience of the Congress. As the first woman speaker, it was a powerful experience to say goodbye to Justice Ginsburg as she became the first woman to ever lie in state in this temple of our democracy.
During Women’s History Month in 2015, members of Congress held a ceremony to pay tribute to the women justices of the Supreme Court: Justices Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. At that time, speaking about the progress that women had made to achieve equality in the courts and around the country, Justice Ginsburg said, “Once the door is open, there is no stopping us.”
That day, she told the story of Belva Lockwood, the first woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. At first, the court turned her down. She then lobbied Congress, which passed a law that said, “Women who possess the necessary qualifications must be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court.” Referring to this action, Justice Ginsburg said, “It is my favorite example of how sometimes the Congress is more in tune with changing times and the expansion of the idea of equality than the court is.”
Another example was the Lilly Ledbetter case, when the Supreme Court ruled against women in the workplace. The Ginsburg dissent would become the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first bill signed into law by President Obama.
Indeed, Justice Ginsburg’s life was a testament to the truth that “when women succeed, America succeeds.”
One of Justice Ginsburg’s passions was her love of music, which was a unifying force in her relationships. Perhaps most consequential to Justice Ginsburg was her love of family. Her partnership with her late husband, her beloved Marty, was legendary: distinguished by shared sacrifice and constant support, and filled with boundless love. And now they are together. May it be a source of comfort to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s children, Jane and James, her grandchildren Paul, Clara, Miranda, and Abigail, and all her loved ones that so many people around the world mourned their loss and are praying for them.