By Amanda Menas
Following the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, Sept. 18, students, educators, and families paid tribute to the life and service of the equal justice advocate and famous liberal dissenter.
“As educators, we know that she is now considered, and always will be, a teacher and champion of racial and social justice,” said NEA President Becky Pringle in tribute to the late justice and former law school professor. “Her loss is more than a seat on the nine-justice Supreme Court; her loss is devastating and will be felt for generations. NEA members will honor her legacy by redoubling our efforts to fight for justice.”
The second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg argued vehemently for gender equity in classrooms and workplaces, for desegregation in schools, and for the rights of students at all levels of education. Her first opinion on an education-related case was Missouri v. Jenkins, where she dissented from a decision that overturned a desegregation plan for Kansas City, Mo.
“Given the deep, inglorious history of segregation in Missouri, to curtail desegregation at this time and in this manner is an action at once too swift and too soon,” Ginsburg wrote. She would go on to rule in a number of cases to allow race to be considered in college admissions, aiding generations of students of color.
In perhaps her most famous decision, Ginsburg ruled in the 1996 case of United States v. Virginia that women may not be excluded from the Virginia Military Institute. “A prime part of the history of our Constitution … is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded,” wrote Ginsburg for the majority. Her words echo across the nation in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests which have been completely ignored by President Trump.
Now, under the Trump administration, the civil rights that Ginsburg fought for–from health care, to women’s rights, to LGBTQ+ rights–are at risk.
During her 27 years on the court, Ginsburg wrote a number of opinions regarding gender discrimination in K-12 schools. In 1999, she was in the majority, ruling that Title IX applied to lawsuits against school districts for failing to stop student-on-student sexual harassment. It was also Ginsburg who ruled in 2005 that Title IX allowed claims for retaliation by someone who had complained about sex discrimination. However, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are attempting to strip Title IX rights that Justice Ginsburg fought for.
The stakes have never been higher than they are in this election. Voters know that the Court’s next new Justice will rule on issues from school funding to the right to join a union and whether to keep protections for pre-existing conditions, at a time when complications from COVID-19 would become the next deniable pre-existing condition.
The only way to ensure that the American people have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice is to wait until the people have spoken in Election 2020. It was the one wish that Justice Ginsburg made from her deathbed: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.’”
The Senate has never confirmed a Supreme Court Justice this close to a presidential election. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned students and working families by stalling for months on much-needed COVID-19 relief, he is now rushing to appoint a new justice. Senate Republicans are playing a reckless political game instead of doing their best to keep Americans safe and fix the economy.
Trump has said throughout his presidency that he would nominate justices who would strike down the Affordable Care Act, and diminish Roe v. Wade. Taking away health care from those most in need goes against everything Justice Ginsburg stood for. Throughout her life, Ginsburg fought for the civil rights of all Americans. Within weeks of a new Trump-appointed justice, the Affordable Care Act could be gone, 20 million Americans will lose their health care, and people with pre-existing conditions will lose their protections.
The best tribute to Justice Ginsburg’s legacy, said Becky Pringle, is to “vote in a fair and free election, and then the next President can consider who should attempt to fill her unfillable shoes. She made this wish, not for her sake, but for ours.
“She understood that the people must be heard in the election and any consideration of replacing her should wait. We should heed her wish — and her sage advice.”
Help preserve Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by making sure your voice is heard in this election. Make your plan to vote today.