WASHINGTON – Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who joined major decisions for LGBTQ rights on the bench and was known as the “Notorious RBG” in progressive circles, has died at age 87.
“Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer,” a Supreme Court spokesperson said via a statement Friday evening.
In a statement released to the media, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
President Trump who had held a campaign rally at Bemidji Regional Airport in Bemidji, Minnesota was asked afterwards by reporters to respond to Ginsburg’s death. The president looked shocked upon hearing the news. “She was an amazing woman” who “led an amazing life,” he said, and added: “I am sad to hear that.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement upon Ginsburg’s passing she was “a giant of justice, a champion for equality and progress.”
“Justice Ginsburg was an American hero and pioneer, a voice for so many marginalized people, leaving behind a legacy of courage, tenacity and historic impact in creating a better country and a better world for all of us,” Carey said. “We are all so grateful for all Justice Ginsburg has done for LGBTQ people, for women, for our ability to control our own bodies, for all that seek to move freedom forward in this country.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement Friday evening upon learning of Ginsburg’s death;
“Justice Ginsburg devoted her extraordinary life and intellect to making the words of our nation’s founding documents more true. Throughout her historic legal career, her contributions as a jurist to the cause of equality for women and men were unmatched. Justice Ginsburg fought tirelessly for the rights of women at work, at school and in the life of our nation. She proved over and over again that sex-based discrimination harmed not just women, but men and families, and that reckoning with this inequality was required for our nation to live out its promise.
“In moving our nation forward, she inspired millions among us, including so many women and girls, to reach higher, dream bigger and dissent more passionately. Though this loss is incalculable, her legacy will live on in the fairer, more just society that she bravely ushered in and that we must, to honor her, safeguard. Our thoughts and prayers are with her colleagues, her family and all Americans in mourning,” Newsom added.
Ginsburg’s death will light a bonfire in an already tumultuous political season, as emotions are heated and civil unrest — even violence — has gripped the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The fate of Ginsburg’s seat, who was strong proponent of abortion rights, will be seen as key to deciding whether or not abortion will remain legal in the United States.
With a seat vacant on the Supreme Court, the responsibility falls to the president of the United States to appoint a replacement who will be subject to Senate confirmation. For the time being that is Trump, who would have a Republican-controlled Senate to evaluate his pick before the election — but not under the principles Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has previously outlined.
When conservative justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, McConnell said he would let the people speak their voice in the presidential election rather allow consideration of President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.
“This vacancy should not be filled,” McConnell said at the time. “The American people should have their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide.”
McConnell in a statement released to reporters about a half hour after Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced by the Supreme Court, said that the U.S. Senate will vote on President Trump’s pick to replace her on the Court, even though it’s an election year.
McConnell, changed Senate rules to allow confirmation of Supreme Court justices without a 60-vote threshold for a filibuster.
Trump has recently updated his list of potential Supreme Court picks, which include anti-LGBTQ choices such as U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan and James Ho of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
“There is no doubt—let me clear—that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a brief statement Friday night in Wilmington, Delaware. “This was the position Republicans took in 2016.”
In a tweet Friday evening, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) wrote:
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
‘A force for good’
Appointed by former President Bill Clinton and confirmed in 1993, Ginsburg joined the majority for every decision for LGBTQ right from the Supreme Court.
Among them were Romer v. Evans in 1996, which struck down Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2, Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which struck down state laws criminalizing sodomy. Both decisions were early indications the nation was beginning to head into a different direction to accept.
Ginsburg also joined rulings that advanced same-sex marriage, including Windsor v. United States in 2013, which struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act; Hollingsworth v. Perry in 2013, which restored marriage equality to California after Proposition 8; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and extended full marriage equality throughout the country.
More recently, Ginsburg joined the decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The broad ruling grants protections to LGBTQ people wherever there are laws against sex discrimination, including employment, housing, health care and education.
Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Ginsburg was “a force for good — a force for bringing this country closer to delivering on its promise of equality for all.”
“Her decades of work helped create many of the foundational arguments for gender equality in the United States, and her decisions from the bench demonstrated her commitment to full LGBTQ equality,” David said. “She was and will remain an inspiration to young people everywhere, a pop culture icon as the Notorious RBG and a giant in the fight for a more just nation for all. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.”
Additional reporting by Chris Johnson, editing by Michael K. Lavers.
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