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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died — SCOTUS Equality Legacy in Jeopardy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Her dying wish, according to her granddaughter, was that her seat not be filled by this president.

After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. Through her time on the bench, Ginsburg became a women's rights advocate, feminist icon, and often voted for equality in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. Her death, at 87, was announced by the Supreme Court today, who said she was surrounded by family.

"Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. "We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tired and resolute champion of justice."

Her death is likely to initiate a nasty battle for her Supreme Court seat in the weeks ahead of the upcoming presidential election. Depending on her replacement, the new occupant could work to undo the victories Ginsburg helped win over her 27-year term. Ginsburg was cognizant of this and left a message via her granddaughter Clara Spera.

"My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," she said.

In addition to her work that was instrumental in the Women's Liberation movement, put on screen in the 2018 film On the Basis of Sex, Ginsburg has a legacy of siding with LGBTQ+ equality. In 1996, just three years after she was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, she helped to strike down a discriminatory constitutional amendment in Colorado in the Romer v. Evans case. It went down in history as the first pro-LGBTQ+ ruling decided on by the court. She continued this legacy of coming down with pro-LGBTQ+ votes throughout her tenure. The Human Rights Campaign pointed to a legacy of those cases: Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, Windsor v. U.S. in 2013 and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, and most recently Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020.

"Today, we lost an unqualified, undisputed hero," Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. "She wasn't just an iconic jurist, Justice Ginsburg was a force for good -- a force for bringing this country closer to delivering on its promise of equality for all. Her decades of work helped create many of the foundational arguments for gender equality in the United States, and her decisions from the bench demonstrated her commitment to full LGBTQ equality. She was and will remain an inspiration to young people everywhere, a pop culture icon as the Notorious RBG and a giant in the fight for a more just nation for all."

In 2013 she even became the first Supreme Court justice to officiate a same-sex couple's wedding. She's gone on to officiate many more.

With Ginsburg's seat now open, Trump could appoint a conservative to the court which would give them a 6-to-3 majority. With lifelong terms, the impact of such a decision would be felt for generations.

In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to have meetings or hearings surrounding any of Obama's Supreme Court nominees.

"My view, and I can now confidently say the view shared by virtually everybody in my conference, is that the nomination should be made by the president that the people elect in the election that's now underway," he told press at the time. His defense was that given the upcoming election, it was only right that the American people have a say in who makes the nomination.

McConnell reversed that decision earlier this year when asked about a possible vacancy. In May he said "Oh, we'd fill it," if a vacancy were to occur this year. It is likely that McConnell will make all attempt to rush through a confirmation of a justice nominated by Trump. Given the Republican control of the Senate, he is likely to be successful.

"Thank you Ruth Bader Ginsburg," Laverne Cox wrote to Twitter of the news. "Your work and life made so much possible for all of us." She was one of many to post with Billy Eichner encouraging followers to "continue in her footsteps" and not let up "until the bitter end.

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