We are bereft at the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a brilliant woman whose career in law helped bring justice to women, the disabled, immigrants, gay and lesbian people, and many others. Illuminating and eliminating gender-based discrimination was her passion.
Systemic sex discrimination has been rampant throughout history, and as recently as the 1960s even the US courts did not give women relief. Jonathan Entin writes that, at the time, the Supreme Court “had rejected every challenge to laws that treated women worse than men.” Enter Ruth Bader Ginsburg – and she had a plan. She strategically selected cases where gender-based discrimination acted against men, such as denying widowers social security benefits provided to widows. Her success laid the groundwork to attack gender-based discrimination against women. She was a highly influential Justice at the Supreme Court. Ginsburg wrote for the majority in a key decision that declared that Virginia’s exclusion of women from the Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional – and that a separate but equal option was not sufficient. She has been instrumental in overturning laws against gay marriage and restricting abortion. Ginsburg believed that the greatest dissents illuminate the way to future court opinions. She is rightly famous for her dissents, as in Bush vs Gore, the challenge to the voting rights act, and the Hobby Lobby case.
Complacency is our enemy
Our citizens have become complacent about women’s rights. Even now, without an Equal Rights Amendment, attempts to overturn laws that discriminate against women have a higher bar for success than laws alleged to discriminate against other protected groups. Laws restricting abortion are pushing the envelope, and the right to birth control is being attacked. Religious entities are taking over health care facilities and restricting knowledge and services, even here in Western Washington. As women are restricted, who will be next?
The Supreme Court
The vacancy on the Supreme Court is an emergency for those who believe in justice. Another conservative justice would tip the balance of the court precipitously, with little hope for balance between interpretations of the Constitution. This would be a far-reaching victory for Evangelical conservatives, the rich and powerful, the racists and the white nationalists. We must insist that the playbook that blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland must not be tossed aside when convenient to those who instigated it. We must make our voices heard: No Supreme Justice should be appointed until after the inauguration. At the same time, we must work to get out the vote so that the President and the Senate reflect the will of all of the people.
We mourn and then we act. Now.
For more information on actions you can take, contact Advocates for Women at A4W@euuc.org or other Social Justice Committees at EUUC.
Contributed by Marilyn Parsons, on behalf of Advocates for Women