The country has experienced a seismic loss in the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
On Friday night, the eve of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, the 87-year-old known as RBG — and in recent years, Notorious RBG — lost her yearslong battle with pancreatic cancer. Only the second woman appointed to the highest court, RBG became a liberal and feminist icon. She started her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. She was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the D.C. Circuit Court in 1980 and by President Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1993.
In her nearly 30 years on the court, Ginsburg wrote landmark majority opinions and dissents on a range of issues, particularly centered on gender equality, reproductive rights, and civil rights. She was especially known for her memorable dissenting opinions. These fierce, persuasive and brilliantly reasoned defenses of the rights of others reflected her belief that “dissent speaks to a future age" and that the greatest dissents do become court opinions.
Recently, she dissented in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, in which the Court upheld a Trump regulation that gave employers the right to deny employees no-cost coverage of birth control due to moral or religious objections. Ginsburg, one of the two justices in the minority, wrote: “Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree.”
Also notable was her dissent in a decision that cast down parts of the Voting Rights Act, where she wrote, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
Generations of Americans live in a more equitable society, albeit still imperfect, thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s work as a litigant in front of the Supreme Court and a justice on the bench — including generations of women who have more access to safe and legal abortion, more likelihood of equal pay, and an enduring role model for fairness and justice.
Ginsburg’s loss is monumental — and in the coming weeks the battle over filling her seat will also be massive. Though there are just over 40 days before the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that Trump’s nominee will get a vote on the Senate floor despite a refusal to grant even a hearing to Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated in March 2016, on the grounds it was too soon before an election. Then McConnell said on election year nominations: “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice.”
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey agreed: “This is a decision that should be made with the maximum input of the American people, and that’s achieved by allowing the next president to make this decision.”
RBG’s dying wish was not to be replaced until a new president is installed. Trump and Senate Republicans should honor both her wishes and her legacy and not even think about filling her seat.