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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Woman who dissented

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RBG

Manali Chotalia

Gender discrimination is an evil rooted in society not providing women with equal rights and status as men. But, feminists all over the world have been trying in their way to fight societal evil, Ruth Bader Ginsburg being one of them took her stand to fight this discrimination which she faced as a woman.

Ginsburg, popularly known as RBG, was an advocate who fought for gender equality and women’s rights and became the first Jewish woman to be an associate justice of the US Supreme Court.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Cornell University, she started working in the Social Security Administration office. At that time, she was married and pregnant with her first child due to which she was demoted in the office.

However, in 1956, she enrolled at the Harvard Law School being one of nine women. She, in her third year, transferred to Columbia Law School and got her degree from there.

Legal Career:

Starting her career in law was not easy. Being a woman, she was rejected for a clerkship position. However, she got the position of a clerk with the help of her Columbian law professor and continued with the same for two years.

She soon started working as a research associate and did extensive research for her book while she was in Sweden. Her thinking on gender equality was swayed when she was working in association with the Swedish Bruzelius family of jurists and saw that many women in Sweden were working in this field unlike in the U.S.

Ginsburg’s husband had a well-paid job due to which she was told that Rutgers Law School where she was working as a professor would pay her less than other male colleagues.

In 1970, she started working for women and their rights. She founded the first law journal in the U.S. which had its main focus on the rights of women, called – the Women’s Rights Law Reporter.

She also worked on a sex discrimination casebook. She chose cases that made gender-neutral laws.

Associates and her friends would say that majority of her clients were men, and she used these cases to convince the existence of inequality to the bench – which was then indifferent towards the existence of gender discrimination.

American Civil Liberties Union:

With the advent of time, she became a very skilled advocate and started working towards gender equality. She became one of the founders of the Women’s Rights Project at ACLU. She started pleading before the Supreme Court on gender discrimination cases.

She herself being a victim of this prejudice did not want other women to see the same which became a driving force for her to reach the results of an even society.

Ginsburg helped in passing these laws for women’s benefit:

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Ginsburg, along with Susan Deller Ross, helped remove the pregnancy from becoming a barrier for women’s careers. Earlier that time, pregnant women were removed from the job or not even given one just because they were pregnant.

While she was pregnant and working, she used to wear bulky clothes just to hide pregnancy, as she feared losing her job.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

Earlier women needed to have a male co-signer if they wanted to apply for a bank account or get loans. This Act gave women the right to do these things alone without a male co-signer.

“Feminism is the notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by any man made barriers” – Ginsburg from “My Own Words.”

Induction of women in the Juries was considered optional, but she raised her voice and said that women should be allowed to serve on juries.

Cases:

United Nations v. Virginia

Virginia Military Institute did not allow women to join their program. In this, she argued for the induction of women in the same field as men instead of creating a special program.

Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S.636

In this case, she represented widower and argued against the discrimination which widowers had to face as they were denied the survival benefits.

Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190

Oklahoma had set different drinking ages for women and men. It allowed women over the age of 18 years to purchase beer but denied the same to 21 years old men. She argued for the same and intermediate scrutiny was imposed by the court.

She fought many more cases regarding gender discrimination.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court:

Ginsburg was nominated by then-President Bill Clinton as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, thus, becoming the second female justice of the Supreme court. She was known for her dissenting opinion among the law students.

Ledbetter v. Goodyear, 550 U.S. 618, 2007

Here a lawsuit was filed by the plaintiff due to pay discrimination on gender. The defendant claimed that they were not discriminating and were paying them on their competence. Also stated that the allegations were void due to the limitation statute.

Ginsburg’s dissent:

“In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”

Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015

In this case, she joined the majority and removed the ban on same-sex marriage.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016

The Omnibus Abortion Bill or HB2 was struck down in this case which allowed doctors performing abortions to have to admit advantage at nearby hospitals.

“It is beyond rational belief that H.B.2 could genuinely protect the health of women and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

Ginsburg

Ginsburg also gave important decisions in other cases of public importance.

Notorious RGB: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was created in 2019 which depicted her life and career.

Several films and books have tried recording the life of this woman who appeared frail and shy but changed the course of history for women.