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Virginians Reflect on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Impact and Legacy

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Virginians are mourning the death of U.S.Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The 87-year-old died on Friday from ongoing complications from pancreatic cancer. 

VPM asked listeners to pass along their thoughts about the late jurist.  

Catherine Ford, of Richmond,  said she connected with Ginsburg on a personal level. 

“Ruth’s mother passed away just before she graduated high school and my mother did not live to see me graduate high school either,” Ford said. “I was very inspired and continue to be inspired by her resilience in pursuing her education and the advocacy that she did even in the face of some heartbreaking tragedy.”

Governor Ralph Northam ordered flags to be flown at half-staff over the weekend in her honor. 

“She was a giant on the court, a brilliant legal mind, and an unwavering beacon in the fight for equal justice and gender equity,” Northam said in a statement. Northam praised Ginsburg’s work to ensure his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, admitted women as cadets. 

In a 7-to-1 decision, the Court held that VMI's male-only admissions policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. Ginsburg wrote that majority opinion, which would be one of her most notable decisions

Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William) would later benefit from that ruling, graduating from VMI in 2003. Caroll Foy often recalls being in her high school Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, class watching news of that decision. 

“Hearing Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg’s reasoning and her logic and her saying ultimately that women can do all things if given the opportunity, I believe that emphatically. And I believed it so much that I declared in that classroom, in that moment, that I was going to attend Virginia Military Institute,” she said. 

Carroll Foy told VPM that Ginsburg also inspired her to fight to ensure that Virginia became the last state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which says that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The General Assembly passed a resolution earlier this year to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, but its adoption has not been certified as part of the U.S. Constitution. 

“When we do make it happen, because it will be done, we will commemorate that moment and honor it in Justice Ginsburg’s memory, because this was something that was of utmost importance to her,” Carroll Foy said. 

While Ginsburg had long advocated for the ERA’s passage, some advocates were dismayedwhen she suggested they should start the ratification process over because there are still unanswered legal questions about the amendment’s validity. Congress imposed a 1982 deadline for 38 states to ratify, although many advocates doubt whether that deadline is binding.

Ginsburg will be recognized as a stalwart for balance, said Marni Byrum, past president of both the Virginia Women Attorneys Association and the Virginia State Bar. 

“She was the face of and the mover behind leveling the playing field for all people,” Byrum said. “She was the epitome of what a justice should be in terms of her intellect, in terms of her ability to thoroughly analyse and discuss and dissect issues and her ability to present those issues in a very forthright and understandable way. All of those characteristics are not always found in people who get appointed to judicial positions.”


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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