By Willow Glenn
Dear Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
I want to tell you about how your life, actions, and accomplishments have directly impacted the rights and freedoms that I have, along with the choices that I am able to make.
I am extremely independent, motivated, and ready to start my life. Of course, I do not know exactly how my life will pan out. But I do know that I will keep my independence and motivation. Because of the work that you, the Notorious RBG, accomplished in this country, I can do that.
I want to be a self-made woman. I want to earn money, pay my bills and taxes, be debt-free, own my own home, and own a car, without being dependent on a spouse.
To do any of that, I need money. I need to be able to earn a liveable wage at a sustainable job.
You made sure that for any job I hold, I will be paid the same amount of money as my male counterparts. Acting with the courage of your convictions, you read a “scathing” dissent from the bench of the Supreme Court for the 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case:
“The Court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination” (Ginsburg, 2007).
You called upon Congress to right this wrong and the first law Barack Obama signed as President was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes pay discrimination based on gender illegal. Wherever I am hired, I have the assurance that my labor will have the same value as the labor of my coworkers; your dissent laid that foundation.
If it were not for you, I might not be able to hold a credit card under my own name. You were a major advocate and argued for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. The Act made it illegal for credit cards to be withheld from anyone on the basis of gender, age, race, religion, or marital status.
I am female, and I plan on having a credit card before I ever get close to marriage. Credit cards have become an important part of modern life; getting a hotel room, renting a car, ordering online are all made easier with credit cards, and there is protection against fraud, protection against losing money, and rewards benefits. I will likely live on my own and having a credit card would make my life easier. If not for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, I could be denied this increasingly important tool. If not for you, RBG, this Act might not exist.
I do not know when I will fall in love, or with whom. I will be responsible and careful, but I have a world of options in front of me. I have no idea who will catch my eye, but I am open to the possibilities.
Much of that freedom comes from the pinnacle case in LGBTQ+ history; Obergefell v. Hodges. The outspokenness that you maintained about your views on same-sex marriage are considered to have softened the nation and a few members Supreme Court to the oppression of the LGBTQ+ community.
You also stopped the procreation argument in its tracks when you asked if a 70-year-old heterosexual couple should be allowed to marry, because they obviously would not be procreating either. It led to the close 5-4 decision, giving me the freedom to love whomever I wish. You not only granted me this right, but you also celebrated it with the country, and you were the first Supreme Court justice to officiate a same-sex wedding.
Out of all of my rights, one of the most important may be the right to make my own decisions about my body. Bodily autonomy is a huge foundation for freedom. The choice to have a child or not is a part of bodily autonomy. I do not plan on ever needing to have an abortion, but it is necessary for the option to be there, and although I might not ever use the service, many, many women do. Many women choose to have abortions and all for different reasons. No matter why, a woman’s choice is valid and needs to be respected.
In 2016, you argued and wrote the concurrence for abortion rights in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. You were a key player in my right to make decisions that affect my body.
Justice Ginsburg, your life has given me the right to earn a fair wage, hold a credit card, marry whomever I wish, and make decisions for my body. Your life leaves a legacy, and we must follow the path you started to keep these rights.
Trump is now pushing to fill your vacant seat with conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett and bring the court to a 6-3 conservative majority. This could mean losing abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, action against climate change, and protections for LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and other minorities. It could mean generations of conservative rulings.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed” (Ginsburg, 2020).
This was your final wish, which you told your granddaughter, Clara Spera, from your deathbed. You very deliberately said “new president,” not “next president.” You did not want your replacement to be chosen by Donald Trump. But Trump and the majority of Republicans are working to hastily push a Trump nominee through Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 because it was an election year. It was nine months until the election, but due to the fact that a new president would be elected that year, he stopped the confirmation hearings.
Now, with only weeks from the presidential election, McConnell is pushing for a Trump nominee. But Mitch McConnell isn’t the only one. Senator Lindsey Graham fervently opposed an Obama nominee because it was an election year.
He said then, “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination” (Graham, 2016).
But as John Avlon wrote at CNN.com, “On Saturday, less than 24 hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Graham tweeted, ‘I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”
There has been a precedent set. In an election year, an empty Supreme Court seat should not be filled until the next president is elected. We should not stand for hypocrisy and disregard for democratic protocol in our government. You showed our country that, Justice Ginsberg.
You left behind a huge legacy with your passing. It is the responsibility of us all to protect the progress you made and to continue the work that you started. We must hold Congress accountable for hypocrisy. We must fight to protect our rights of financial independence, bodily autonomy, and marital freedom. We must remember your vision of the future and use it to protect democracy.
Thank you for expanding and protecting my rights, and the rights of all people. Thank you for showing the world how to work for justice. Thank you for teaching us all how to use our power to say: “I Dissent.”
Willow Glenn is a current college student. She likes hairless cats and long books.