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Est. April 5, 2002
Sept 24, 2020 - Issue 834
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Ginsburg Bent the Moral Arc


"Ginsburg’s death comes as a crushing blow to
those of us who believe in building a multicultural
democracy and a participatory government, where
protests are understood as a citizen’s
First Amendment right to do so."

Like so many Americans across the country, I, too, am mourning the news that U.S. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87. As a soft-spoken firebrand and feminist icon, Ginsburg leaves a titanic influence on the law, a legacy unmatched by any other jurist. As a feisty octogenarian on the Supreme Court bench, Ginsburg earned the moniker Notorious R.B.G.- a play off the deceased rapper Notorious B.I.G. And, as a pop-cultural phenom, her image as the “Notorious R.B.G.” is on T-shirts and coffee mugs. A 2018 film “On the Basis of Sex” and documentary “RBG” depicting Ginsburg’s life as an attorney have inspired a new wave of young feminists and little girls to follow in her footsteps.

Ginsburg followed in the footsteps of a legal giant, too. Ginsburg was called the Thurgood Marshall of the 1970s women’s movement. (Marshall most famous court victory, Brown v. Board of Education (1954)) In referring to Marshall in a September 2014 interview in “The New Republic,” Ginsburg stated, “He was my model as a lawyer. You mentioned that I took a step-by-step, incremental approach; well, that’s what he did until he had those building blocks to end separate-but-equal.”

One of Ginsburg’s famous dissents was the 2007 case of “Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company,” on gender discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter argued pay disparity because of her gender, citing that it’s a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A 5–4 vote favored Goodyear. Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion, stating, “Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view.” In a bold move, Ginsburg read her dissent publicly from the bench. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women to challenge wage discrimination.

Ginsburg fought not only for women’s right but also LGBTQ+ rights, like same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015), African American voting rights (Shelby County v. Holder, 2013), the rights for persons with disabilities - Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), environmental justice - Earth v. Laidlaw Environmental Services (2000), to name just a few from her impressive list.

Ginsburg’s lens on justice was intersectional before the word became popular in the public sphere because of her identity with a persecuted group, citing her Jewish history and the Holocaust. “My heritage as a Jew and my occupation as a judge fit together symmetrically. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition. I take pride in and draw strength from my heritage, as signs in my chambers attest: a large silver mezuzah on my door post, [a] gift from the Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn; on three walls, in artists’ renditions of Hebrew letters, the command from Deuteronomy: ‘Zedek, zedek, tirdof’ – ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ Those words are ever-present reminders of what judges must do that they ‘may thrive,’” Ginsburg said in a 2004 speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ginsburg’s death comes as a crushing blow to those of us who believe in building a multicultural democracy and a participatory government, where protests are understood as a citizen’s First Amendment right to do so. As Ginsburg is laid to rest, a fierce fight is unfolding over her successor at a time of intense political polarization and with just weeks of the presidential election. However, in her final days, Ginsburg told her granddaughter, Clara Spera, the following: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

As this battle ensues, over the weekend, thousands of women, myself included, gathered at vigils that took place across the country to mourn and celebrate the life and work of this feminist icon and trailblazer. Ginsburg’s 27 years on the nation’s high court as a preeminent litigator played an epic role in advancing women’s rights, gender equity, and civil rights. She was a voice for all Americans.

Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court. She died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on this High Holiday is a “tzaddik,” a person of great righteousness. Also, Justice Ginsburg was a humble person who exuded a quiet grace. In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, Ginsburg said she “would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”

Ginsburg’s advocacy for justice was unwavering and showed it, especially with each oral dissent. In another oral dissent, Ginsburg quoted a familiar Martin Luther King Jr. line, adding her coda: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” but only “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” Like the outstanding Americans we have lost in the last couple of months - Civil Rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, and Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman, who bent the moral arc toward justice, U.S. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did, too. Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a  column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s  coming out story is  profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is  Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC. 
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is published Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
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