Associate justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a force unto herself. A pioneer for law and LGBTQ+ rights, she influenced the fight for queer recognition, same-sex marriage equality, job protections and the decriminalization of homosexuality. Evidently, the impact she had on the American LGBTQ+ community as a whole is undeniable.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
She was the first Supreme Court justice to conduct same-sex marriages, a champion of gender equality and an avid defender of reproductive rights. “Justice Ginsburg was a force for good — a force for bringing this country closer to delivering on its promise of equality for all,” wrote Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David.
We were all shocked to hear of her passing on Friday, September 18th, so we’re taking the time to go over her life and legacy. Here are the ‘Notorious R.B.G’ lessons you can teach your kids.
- Fighting for LGBTQ+ Protection Under the Law
- Working to Decriminalise Homosexuality
- Ensuring Equality Within Marriage
- Promoting and Securing Women’s’ Rights
- Being a Role Model for Young Women
- Being Limitlessly Ambitious
Fighting for LGBTQ+ Protection Under the Law
RBG, as she has come to be referred to, was a stalwart supporter of gay rights throughout her law career. She was integral to several landmark rulings that have made it easier for gay people to live their lives as they want to live them, enjoying increased equal rights than ever before.
Ginsburg was appointed to her position as Supreme Court justice in 1993 and she didn’t wait to unleash the full force of her support for the LGBTQ+ community. In 1996, Ginsburg was involved in the first Supreme Court case to address gay rights since Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986. The Romer v. Evans case began when voters in Colorado passed an amendment to the state’s constitution, which prohibited the recognition of queer people as a protected class.
Ginsburg was in the majority of a 6-3 ruling that found that this amendment did not satisfy the Equal Protection Clause. After a long debate, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the discriminatory amendment.
Working to Decriminalize Homosexuality
In 2003, Ginsburg was again in the progressive majority within the Supreme Court that worked to legalize same-sex relations across the United States. She helped to determine that any act of criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional, as this was part of the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This year, Ginsburg was involved in the Bostock v. Clayton County case, which was another important ruling by the Supreme Court. She and many other justices declared that any anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, which means it’s illegal under the Civil Rights Act. This helped to grant protection to LGBTQ+ people within employment, housing, education and healthcare.
Essentially, RGB played a pivotal role in a number of the most important cases in American LGBTQ+ history.
Ensuring Equality Within Marriage
RGB also had a hand in making sure that gay couples could enjoy the same legal rights of marriage as heterosexual couples. In 2013, she joined the ruling majority in the cases Windsor v U.S (which found denying same-sex marriage unconstitutional) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (which legalized gay marriage in California). The cool thing about these cases? They were accomplished on the same day.
Ginsburg was also part of the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which extended full marriage equality through the country, effectively ending any state bans on same-sex marriage. “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach,” the ruling found.
And Ginsburg wasn’t one to pull any punches on things she disagreed with. For example, she described the Defense of Marriage Act (which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman) as “two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim-milk marriage”, referring to the limited rights for same-sex couples.
Promoting and Securing Women’s Rights
One of Ginsburg’s earliest fights for women’s equality actually involved her own salary. While working as a professor at Rutgers Law School in 1963, she discovered that she was being paid less than her male colleagues.
She then joined an equal pay campaign at Rutgers, securing a salary increase for her and other female staff. This paved the way for further achievements in securing equality for women. Here’s a quick list of her other achievements and contributions in this field:
- She was the director of the Women’s Rights Project.
- She pushed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which acknowledges any discrimination based on pregnancy as unlawful. It protects women who are denied a job position because they are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.
- In 1996, Ginsburg led the ruling decision that ensured that all state-funded schools must admit women.
- In 1974, her work paved the way for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, legislation that states that women have the same right to financial independence and equal benefits as men. This meant that women could apply for bank accounts, mortgages and credit cards without the need for a male co-signor.
But gender equality in her eyes was not simply raising up women, it was also about improving the lives of men as well. She helped men secure the same caregiving rights as women after successfully defending Charles Moritz in 1968.
Moritz was then unmarried and claimed a tax deduction for caring for his mother, which was denied by the IRS. Ginsburg found that the IRS violated the Equal Protect Clause of the US Constitution, meaning that in 1971, the IRS Code was changed to allow a person of any sex to claim caregiving tax deductions.
But it’s not only securing rights that Ginsburg was instrumental in, she was and is a massive role model for young women everywhere.
Being a Role Model For Young Women
Ginsburg had an incredible career, showing young women everywhere that they were not to be defined by their gender when it came to professional success. She was the second-ever woman to be elected Supreme Court Justice, after Sandra Day O’Connor, but made the role her own, influencing countless legal decisions that bettered the lives of women, the gay community and Americans in general.
She was also a great advocate for feminism. “Feminism”, she wrote in her 2016 book, My Own Words, “is the notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by man-made barriers.” This is a rallying cry for all women and a quote that our daughters should live by.
She was also a woman of incredible courage and moral fortitude, having beat cancer not once, but twice. One of the best things we can learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg is that she embodied the phrase ‘know your worth’, having dealt with prejudice in her career and in some American legislation. Despite those obstacles, she worked to become one of the most famous, most respected practitioners of law in world history.
Being Limitlessly Ambitious
"Many people have asked me, 'Well, when are you going to step down?'" Ginsburg said in an interview this year. "As long as I can do the job full steam, I will be here."
A top lesson we can take from Ginsburg is that no ambition is too ambitious. She had her actions reflect her beliefs and her goals ever so accurately, something we all can do to progress in life.
Many women, gay people, trans people and other communities that face discrimination can sometimes lose sight of their ambitions or dreams because of discrimination. Ginsburg showed us that the hardships she faced were not of her making, but rather the old-fashioned attitudes of others. Because of that, that discrimination could do nothing to halt her ambitions.
The legacy of RGB is one that countless Americans feel today and countless more will feel in the future.
What are your thoughts on Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Do you have any favorite RGB moments you’d like to share with us? What does Ginsburg mean to you? Get in touch with us today to share your thoughts.