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Opinion In Ginsburg death, nation loses a titan of the law, trailblazer for women's rights

18:20  19 september  2020
18:20  19 september  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

McConnell vows quick vote on next justice; Biden says wait

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg had fought off cancer for so long that she had seemingly entered a permanent state of frail-yet-indomitable. So when the end came Friday, at the start of both the Jewish New Year and early voting in the presidential election, it jolted a nation already traumatized by disease, disaster and division.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg sitting on a leather chair posing for the camera: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at the age of 87 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. AFP_8QA7VH.jpg © MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at the age of 87 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. AFP_8QA7VH.jpg

Courageous, brilliant and a cultural icon in her ninth decade, the nation's second female Supreme Court justice was a singular figure. Like the late Thurgood Marshall, who successfully argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case before his time on the high court, her greatest contributions might have been what she did prior to donning her robes.

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More than any other person, Ginsburg was responsible for establishing what now seems obvious and unassailable, but was not for more than a century: that the protections of the 14th Amendment apply to gender discrimination as well as racial discrimination.

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She came to this mission with considerable first-hand experience. After graduating at the top of her law class at Columbia University in 1959, Ginsburg was passed over for a Supreme Court clerkship and, after a federal court clerkship, could not get serious consideration from prestigious law firms.

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Even so, she did not get outwardly angry. Nor would she take to the streets and join the burgeoning women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. Rather, she realized that the courts and the Constitution were the vehicles for tackling gender discrimination.

Working in the 1970s with the American Civil Liberties Union, she did not to try to bring one big case, but rather to chip away at the issue with a series of narrower, winnable cases that would add up to a comprehensive argument. One of her most ingenious moves was to find cases involving men, to show that discrimination "on the basis of sex" could cut both ways.

Nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate on a vote of 96-3, Ginsburg’s most famous opinion as a justice came just three years later when she wrote the 7-1 ruling that opened the doors of the Virginia Military Institute to women.

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In her later years, as the most senior member of the court's liberal wing, she became more vocal in her dissents in cases where the conservative justices prevailed. One involved a pay discrimination suit brought by a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employee named Lilly Ledbetter. While a 5-4 majority ruled against Ledbetter, Ginsburg's dissent elevated the issue to the point that Congress quickly passed a law essentially overturning the ruling.

Ginsburg's trailblazing successes, combined with her unconventional look and sound, made her a pop-culture icon — the "Notorious RBG" — to millions of young Americans in her later years. Her death at 87 touches off what is shaping up as a titanic political battle in the midst of an already fraught presidential election.

Shortly after Ginsburg's death was announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the precedent he and fellow Republicans set in early 2016 to block a highly qualified nominee from then President Barack Obama to the high court — that an upcoming election should decide the matter — would not be followed this time around.

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The Senate, McConnell vowed, would vote on President Donald Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg's death. Never mind that the presidential election was barely a month and a half away.

McConnell's power play promotes cynicism and exudes hypocrisy. He and the nation would benefit by following the lead of Ginsburg, who made Americans proud of government institutions and the law.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In Ginsburg death, nation loses a titan of the law, trailblazer for women's rights

Trump embraces political battle with pick of Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative favorite, for Supreme Court .
Trump's nomination of Barrett will be a major campaign issue, coming just three days before his first debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden. “This nomination is an attack on our very democracy," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Republicans and conservative allies applauded Barrett as a strict constructionist who will interpret the Constitution and not make law from the bench. "Judge Barrett has impressed the brightest judicial and legal minds with her profound understanding of the law," tweeted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex.

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