It’s difficult to comprehend that women didn’t always have the rights that they have now, and many of those rights were only gained a few short decades ago.
Imagine when women weren’t able to open a bank account, have credit cards or a mortgage without a man’s signature until the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974. Considering a woman founded our media company in 1976 and still sits in the publisher’s seat, the thought is unfathomable to many of us.
One of the trailblazers who worked for women’s rights to manage their own finances and their own lives was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She accomplished this feat as the co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The void her death leaves behind is immense. Let us remember all the work that’s been done and is still being fought for true equality. Now with her seat locked in political turmoil, we believe her legacy needs to be respected more than ever.
What we need to remember is sometimes the champion for equal rights, Ginsburg, needed to represent men to work toward the goal of all being treated equally. In 1972, Ginsburg argued in front of the Supreme Court when she and her husband represented Charles Moritz, a bachelor who was unable to take a tax deduction for taking care of his sick mother as a woman or a divorced/widowed man would have been able to do. It was an ingenious tactic, showing how any discrimination on the basis of sex was harmful to the whole, rather than one select group. Throughout her career, Ginsburg was the champion of many causes that have had a positive effect on both men and women of all colors and orientations. She believed that everyone has a right to vote, to access health care including birth control, to obtain an abortion, and that when two people of the same sex fall in love, they have the right to get married just like everyone else.
Replacing Ginsburg will be no easy task, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. President Donald Trump (R) said he will nominate a woman to the seat and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is eagerly waiting in the wings for the process to begin, despite arguing in 2016 that Supreme Court nominees should not be put to the bench in an election year. He and other Senate Republicans did not even hold a hearing for former President Barack Obama’s (D) court pick Merrick Garland that year. It’s the kind of House Rules situation you would expect more from a shady casino owner than the highest legislature in the land. It’s the kind of political skullduggery that does irrevocable lasting harm to democracy itself.
Locally, vigils held by two separate left-wing groups on Long Island’s North Shore have called for Ginsburg’s replacement to wait until after the election, and we’re inclined to agree. The dangerous precedent the U.S. Senate has engendered goes well beyond politics, but to the heart of democracy itself. There cannot be one rule for one party and another rule for the other, effectively eschewing several basic tenets of the Constitution.
There is a reason Ginsburg held on for so long, much longer than any of us would have stayed in such a stressful and high-profile position despite having five bouts with the cancer that eventually led to her death. One of her last statements dictated before her death was, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
The American value of equality for all is one that seems to be lost in our divisive times. We must honor Ginsburg’s legacy by remembering this ideal by moving toward the future and not slipping back to the 1950s where it was believed that women were only capable of being, as the saying goes, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. If that were true, we would have never experienced people like RBG.