Legacy and Impact of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the American Justice System

The “Notorious RBG” was a force to be reckoned with. On September 18, 2020, former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away after shaping a new life for American women. She fought for not only women’s rights, but the rights of every individual, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status or background. In the CNN documentary RBG about her life and work, Ginsburg quoted Sarah Grimké, an American abolitionist and mother of the women’s suffrage movement, and said, “I ask no favors of our sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of two immigrants. She attended Cornell University and then Harvard Law School, where there were only nine women in a university of over 500 men. Regardless of what obstacles and discrimination she faced, in her second year on campus, she joined the prestigious journal, the Harvard Law Review. 

According to CNN’s film RBG, throughout her career, Ginsburg took inspiration from Thurgood Marshall, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, who fought for civil rights. Following his footsteps, she championed equal protection for women. After graduating, Ginsburg was denied a position at a law firm because of her sex. She finally accepted a teaching job at Rutgers and then at Columbia Law School. 

During the 1970s, Ginsburg directed the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. She argued six gender-discrimination cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won five of them. 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first bill signed by President Obama, is an example of Ginsburg’s unwavering dedication to fighting for women’s rights. Lilly Ledbetter worked at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Alabama and was getting 40 percent less pay than the men for the same job. The Supreme Court ruled that because her claim was made after a 180 day period, she could not sue the company under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. According to Washington Post, in Ginsburg’s fierce dissent, she critized the other eight justices as being “indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.” 

Recently, President Trump nominated conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ginsberg. Barrett’s opinions on women’s rights, including reproductive rights and access to affordable health care will reverse the progression that Ginsburg brought about. Many people are asking, “How will our rights be affected? Will I be able to access abortions, healthcare, or protection from discrimination? Will I be able to marry the person I love?”

Many people all over the world mourned Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing away and paid tribute to her life. She was the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court and in her 27-year tenure, she left a legacy that would forever shape American society. Regardless of what happens in the future, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a significant impact on women’s and LGBTQ rights and equality, but whether her impact lasts will depend on the decisions of the Court in the coming years.