An Ode to RBG
The news of Justice Ginsburg's passing hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that she had been battling cancer. Heck, I sent her at least three get well cards. But she always seemed so tough, and larger than life. I didn't think it would get her. Certainly not now. So the fact that it did has left me feeling like I've been punched in the gut.
Like many of you, I have been grieving, eating too much chocolate, and donating money to Democrats. I donated to Amy McGrath, the Democrat who is challenging Mitch McConnell, Jaime Harrison, the Democrat who is challenging Lindsey Graham, and Wendy Davis. Wendy Davis is a state senator from Texas who stood for hours in 2013 to filibuster a law that would have closed almost every abortion clinic in Texas if it had passed.
I also sent a few post cards to Mitch McConnell, telling him that he should not start the process of confirming a replacement to fill Justice Ginsburg's seat until a new president is elected. Remember when President Obama tried to nominate Merrick Garland after Justice Scalia died, and Mitch McConnell wouldn't even have a hearing to entertain the idea? That's when McConnell said, "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president." So I used his own words against him on the postcards that I mailed. If you would like to write to him, his address is:
Senator Mitch McConnnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
One of the students I admired most in law school (I'm looking at you, JD Graham!) told me that writing to McConnell was a waste of ink, and I have to admit that he's probably right. So I did some research to see what we should do next.
According to an article in the New York Times called A Tip Sheet for the Senate Fight Over Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Seat,
there is a "Gang of 7" Republican senators that we should keep our eye on. (Gang of 7? Who the hell comes up with these ridiculous names? No self-respecting gang would ever accept Mitt Romney.)
Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced that they would not vote in favor of holding a hearing to confirm a new Supreme Court justice before the election in November. Some people think that part of the reason Collins would not vote for a new justice now is because she is facing backlash for confirming Kavanaugh. To which I say, good. She deserves backlash for confirming Kavanaugh. But it might be a good idea to keep the pressure on her and Murkowski.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have already said they would vote in favor of having a hearing to confirm a new Trump nominee, so I'm not sure how they got into the gang.
But then there are these last three senators who have said nothing. They are the ones I would call first. They are Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Charles Grassley of Iowa.
All seven of them can be reached by calling the Senate Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. I plan on calling first thing on Monday, September 21st. I would advise you to do the same.
In the meantime, I went back and re-read this entry, which I originally wrote and posted in April of 2019. I updated it to reflect the fact that RBG is no longer with us. When I re-read it, it cheered me up a little. I hope it does the same for you.
It seems like the Trump administration has supplied us with a constant stream of bad news, embarrassment, and scandal. It's enough to make you want to blow up your television and join the Amish. (I mean, wouldn't it be great to just churn some butter and forget about everything for a while?)
So today, let's shift our focus to something awesome: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's been in the news lately because of her fall and subsequent cancer treatment, so she's been on my mind. So I've done a little research. I already suspected that she was pretty great, but my research showed me that she was even more of a badass than I originally suspected. There are a lot of reasons for us to love her, but for the sake of brevity, I thought I'd break it down to four.
1. She was tough as nails.
RBG has had cancer three times since she joined the Supreme Court. And only this last bout has resulted in her taking any time off from work. Take that, Mr. Bone Spurs!
2. She persevered despite suffering gender discrimination.
RBG is known for being a feminist. And like most feminists, she has experienced gender discrimination firsthand. A few examples stand out. After she got married, she had a job at the Social Security Administration. When they found out that she was pregnant with her first child, they demoted her.
When she was a student at Harvard Law School, she was one of nine women in a class of about 500 students. The dean of Harvard Law School at the time had a habit of asking women students what they were doing there, because they were taking the place of a man who could be studying there instead. He asked this question of RBG, also. I hope she told him to go to hell.
After graduating from law school at the very top of her class, she had a really hard time finding work at a firm, because she made the terrible mistake of being a woman. (I have made that same terrible mistake, and also found it very difficult to find work after law school. It was only after I started sending out resumes with my first initials instead of my unfortunately female name that I started to get interviews. And just in case you thought that sexism was long gone, I graduated from law school in 2015.)
Because she was unable to find work at a firm, she turned to teaching. She landed a job at Rutgers Law School. But after she was hired, she was told that the school would be paying her less than her male colleagues, because her husband had a job that paid him a decent salary.
Oh, and by the way, all of the gender discrimination she suffered was totally legal at the time.
3. She was involved in CRAIG v. BOREN!!!!!!!!!
Okay, this is the kind of thing that you only get really excited about if you got your law degree after 1976 and you were the kind of nerd who did all of the assigned reading for your Constitutional Law class in law school. As I'm sure you've already guessed, I am that type of nerd. So when I was doing my research for this blog post and read that RBG had been involved in Craig v. Boren, I said, "Oh, my God! She was involved in Craig v. Boren?!! That's huge!"
To give you a little background, in 1972, RBG co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU. In 1973, she became its general counsel. In that role, she developed a legal strategy to overturn a bunch of U.S. laws that discriminated against people based on their gender. She sometimes chose male litigants to show that laws that discriminated against people based on their gender could also discriminate against men. Pretty clever, right?
One of the cases that challenged a law that discriminated against men was Craig v. Boren. This case challenged an Oklahoma law that regulated the sale of a kind of beer that didn't have a lot of alcohol in it. Women could buy this beer at age 18, but men had to wait until they were 21 to buy it. (But why anyone would want to buy this kind of beer is beyond me. Isn't getting drunk kinda the whole point of drinking beer? But I digress.)
RBG wrote this thing called an amicus brief for the dude who sued the state of Oklahoma. (An amicus brief is a document that a person can write as a "friend of the court". An amicus brief is usually written by someone who is not suing or being sued, but still has some stuff they want to say to the court who will make the decision. ) She also sat next to the person who represented this dude during oral argument at the Supreme Court. Which is pretty great. But the biggest thing that came out of this case was a new kind of legal scrutiny from the Supreme Court.
This new standard is called intermediate scrutiny. The Court uses it to consider striking a law down if it discriminates against people (usually women) on the basis of gender. Why does this matter? Because before the Court was willing to consider gender discrimination a bad thing, gender discrimination was legal. It was even sometimes considered good for women. So by even acknowledging that gender discrimination was a reason to think about striking a law down was a huge step forward for the Court.
Also, Craig v. Boren was decided by the Court in 1976. This was five years before Sandra Day O'Connor became the very first woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court. So Craig v. Boren was decided by a group of men, by a Court who had always been entirely run by men. It's hard for people to consider the impact of unfair treatment when they have never experienced it themselves. So getting the Court to agree that gender discrimination was bad was HUGE!!!!
4. A species of praying mantis is named after her.
Researchers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History named a species of praying mantis Iomantis ginsburgae, in RBG's honor. They had two reasons. First, the neck plate on the mantis looks like the jabot RBG liked to wear. (It's the decorative lacy thing she wore around her neck when she was in her judicial robes.)
The second reason they named this mantis after RBG is the fact that this species of mantis is identified using the female genitalia of the species. The researchers said they named the mantis after Ginsburg to acknowledge her fight for gender equality.
I don't know about you, but I would be pretty darn thrilled to have a species of praying mantis named after me. And I'm sure that among the people who name bugs, this was a high honor.
For all of these reasons, and so many more, I just love her.
We were very lucky to have her for as long as we did. She belongs to the ages now.
And cancer may have beat her, but she fought like hell to stay alive. Her fervent wish was that she would not be replaced by a Trump appointee before the November election. I say we honor her wish by fighting like hell to keep that appointment from happening. So let's get on those phones tomorrow, people, and let's fight like hell.