Many of us have spent part of our weekend reading articles celebrating the legacy of much-beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who loomed much larger in our collective consciousness as an iconic fighter for justice, gender equality and reproductive freedom than her diminutive physical presence.
During confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, she asserted her support of reproductive freedom. As recently as July, Justices Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the lone holdouts in a Supreme Court decision on contraceptive coverage for corporate insurance policies, with the Ginsburg written dissent noting tens of thousands of women would probably lose contraceptive coverage.
Before she was appointed in 1980 to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals by then-President Jimmy Carter and then elevated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she served as Founding Director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. She argued six cases before the Supreme Court, prevailing in five, and was the architect of a “brick upon brick” legal strategy of more than 30 Federal court cases supported by the ACLU which slowly and collectively built the foundation for gender equality advances women and men enjoy today.
During the 1973 oral argument for Frontiero v Richardson, she urged the court to recognize “it writes not only for this case and this day alone, but for this type of case.” She also asserted while women are a majority of the population, “Their absence is conspicuous in Federal and State Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Chambers in higher civil service positions and in appointed posts in federal, state, and local government.”
At the time, women held only three percent of congressional seats, 8 percent of statewide elected executive offices and fewer than eight percent of state legislative seats. While significant gains have been made, women still have far to go to achieve equal representation in government offices. Women currently hold 23.7 percent of Congressional seats, 28.9 percent of statewide elected executive offices and 29.2 percent of state legislative seats. In Georgia, only one woman sits in our 14-member congressional delegation and no women serve in the top state elected executive positions. However, Georgia has a better than national average 30.5 percent of legislative seats.
Justice Ginsburg became famous for her dissenting opinions and the distinguished collars she wore while reading them. Her dissents served to educate her fellow justices, provide guidance for future legal arguments, and in some cases spur Congressional action. One such example was the 2007 decision for Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire and Rubber, decided during the three-year period when she was the only woman on the high court. She insisted on reading her dissent, saying in part: ”The court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discriminations… Pay disparities often occur as they did in Ledbetter’s case in small increments. Only over time is there strong cause to suspect that discrimination is at work… The ball lies in Congress’ court.” Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, and it became the first law signed by President Barak Obama.
Changing the Face of Power has been the Georgia WIN List mission for 20 years. Certainly, all of us wish to honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by work to support the Biden-Harris ticket and to elect two Democratic United States Senators for Georgia to be sure an appropriate successor is appointed and confirmed. At the same time, we should also work hard to elect more women for Georgia legislative seats as a tribute to the Justice Ginsburg legacy because equality of representation is a concept she fought for throughout her distinguished career.
For 2020, Georgia WIN List has endorsed a record setting 54 women. There are 40 women in contested November races, with 21 of them seeking to FLIPseats from Republican to Democratic control. Please consider a generous gift today to support WIN List efforts to FLIP seats and increase the current percentage of women serving under Georgia’s Gold Dome.
Creating the kind of change Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her career as an advocate for is an effective and productive way to honor her legacy and channel the grief we feel.