Another First For Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The First Woman to Lie in State

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By Jessica Grider, Howard University News Service

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the first woman in history to lie in state in the United States Capitol.

The news was revealed on Monday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said that Justice Ginsburg would lie there tomorrow.

Her casket will first lie in repose at the Supreme Court for members of the public to pay their respects before being transported to the National Statuary Hall for the historic event.

As a feminist, a mother and a grandmother, Ginsburg became the second woman in U.S. history to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court since being appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993. After five encounters with cancer, Justice Ginsburg, nicknamed the Notorious RBG, died of metastatic pancreatic cancer complications at age 87 on Sept. 18, 2020. She has left behind family, fans, and a vacant Supreme Court position.

On the night Ginsburg passed away, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said to reporters on Capitol Hill, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” On the following Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that he would announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday at the White House. 

According to NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, “It’s going to be a very, very conservative court if President Trump has his way and Mitch McConnell has his way.” In all likelihood, the new balance in the court will be 6-to-3 conservative-liberal.

Before she became the Supreme Court leader of the liberal wing, Ginsburg worked throughout her successful career to eliminate gender-based inequalities and stereotyping in legislation and regulations. As a lawyer, she argued and won five out of six cases before the Supreme Court during the 1970’s. 

In 2009, as a Supreme Court justice, her dissenting opinion in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. case led former President Barack Obama to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In a pivotal moment in U.S. women’s history, the act became a law enacted by Congress that reinforced worker protection against pay discrimination.

In 2015, when invited to speak to a packed auditorium at the University of Michigan, while highlighting critical moments in legal history, she said “I like to think most of my dissents will be the law someday.”

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will always be an icon and an example of what our world should strive towards for gender equality,” said Howard University senior Virgil Parker, a Patricia Roberts Harris Public Affairs fellow and intern at a bipartisan think tank located in D.C. “I think policymakers should follow Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by continuing to regulate gender equality in the workforce and the leadership of corporate America, and by ensuring to protect women’s rights at all times.”

The president of Howard University, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, released a statement to the university community in memoriam of Ginsburg’s life the day after she passed away. He wrote, “For years, her no-nonsense expression and the legendary collar that adorned her black justice robes became ubiquitous across social media and emblazoned on the backpacks and t-shirts and bodies of the young people who idolized her.” He encouraged the Howard University community to contemplate her “ever-burning legacy” and the world we should strive to perfect in honor of her memory.

A formal ceremony open only to invited guests in celebration of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, legacy, and leadership will be held on Friday morning.