#SCOTUSSpotlight – Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Monday, March 15th, 2021, would have been Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 88th birthday. Justice Ginsburg was the second female and the first Jewish female justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. After being denied many opportunities based on her gender, Justice Ginsburg was motivated to end gender discrimination in law. From not being allowed to read the Torah at her bat-mitzvah because of her gender, to being asked why she was taking the seat of a man in her Harvard Law class, to being denied several positions based on her gender, Ginsburg’s personal experiences ignited her passion to seek equal protection for both men and women under the law. Before her time as a Judge and then later a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ginsburg was a law professor, a co-author for a law school textbook on sex discrimination, a co-founder of the first law Journal focused exclusively on women’s rights, and of course, a practicing attorney. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU where she argued gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court. Ginsburg used the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment to argue that the clause provides that all men and women should be treated equally in the law. For example, Ginsburg argued that a law that provided social security benefits for widows but not for widowers was unconstitutional because it treated men and women unequally. (Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975)). Importantly, Ginsburg knew that she had to win over nine white male Justices, so she chose cases with men as the plaintiff to demonstrate that gender discrimination was harmful not only to women but men as well, as seen in the case example above. Ginsburg won five out of the six gender discrimination cases in front of the Supreme Court. In 1993, after serving as a Judge for the DC Circuit, she was nominated and appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. Justice Ginsburg often wrote dissenting opinions, which showed her disagreement with the majority and highlighted her liberal take on many issues, including equal protection, abortion rights, and voting rights.

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