Editorial: Lioness

Tribune Content Agency

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal lioness of the U.S. Supreme Court who died Friday at 87, was a fierce advocate for equality and justice long before she joined the nation’s highest court.

She was also diminutive and soft spoken, a fan of fancy feminine judicial collars, and someone who was quick to make friends, even with her judicial adversaries.

These were not contradictory qualities in Justice Ginsburg’s eyes. Advancing the cause of American ideals means understanding your opponent’s argument and point of view, she believed. Making the most persuasive cases requires listening to the other side.

When she graduated with top grades from Columbia Law School, she couldn’t get a job at a New York law firm because, as she said, she was Jewish, she was a woman and she was a mother. Instead, she took a teaching job and had time to devote to work fighting for women’s equality.

Long before she had a seat of her own on the court, the future Justice Ginsburg famously persuaded an all-male U.S. Supreme Court to see things her way in a string of landmark victories for equal rights, including one ruling that declared the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment applies to gender. She did it with a strategy that showed the justices how gender discrimination affected men, too.

When President Bill Clinton appointed her to the court in 1993, she quickly distinguished herself as a justice who attempted to build consensus for her opinions and, when she failed to do so, would write blistering dissents that often became better known than the majority opinions.

Justice Ginsburg’s judicial polar opposite for most of her court tenure, conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia, became her “best buddy,” as she called him. They shared a love of opera, a reverence for the law and a deep respect for each other. They disagreed — fervently most of the time — on just about everything else.

She did not see this as an obstacle to friendship or as a barrier to a constructive working relationship.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves us a multifaceted legacy — one of perseverance and of fighting to ensure all Americans enjoy the rights and freedoms our Constitution guarantees. But it is this understanding that we can disagree passionately without dehumanizing each other that means the most in these polarized times.


©2020 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.