Last month, mourners gathered for two days to pay their respects to the US Supreme Court judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became the first woman to lie in state at the capital. The passing of the legal, cultural, and feminist icon leaves a vacancy on the US Supreme Court bench late into a presidential election year.
Appointed during the Clinton administration with bipartisan Senate support of 96-3, the liberal judge, popularised as RBG sat on the Supreme Court for 27 years. Renowned for her advancement of gender equality and civil rights, RBG was the second woman to sit as a justice in the USA’s highest-ranking court. She began making a mark in the early 1970s, arguing before the Supreme Court herself in landmark decisions fighting gender-based discrimination. RBG became later known for her ‘behind the bench’ activism entailing support for equal pay in the workplace and a woman’s right to choose.
Within two weeks of RBG’s passing, President Trump swiftly nominated Amy Coney Barett, a 48-year-old conservative judge for the vacant Supreme Court seat. The nomination has not been welcomed by the liberal democratic party, who believe that having already appointed two justices (Neil Gorsuch & Brett Kavanaugh) and with the country so late into an election year, the process should be suspended until after the presidential election. However, one does not need to dig deep to reveal the stark contrast between the beliefs of RBG and Judge Barett, who has been quoted saying that abortion is “always immoral”. Multiple organisations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, have also declared Barett “a threat to LGBTQ rights” based on her support of dissenting opinions given in critical Supreme Court cases like Obergefell v Hodges. A case in which RBG championed the rights of same-sex couples.
Barrett’s historic stance on minority rights threatens to undermine RBG’s career pursuit of greater equality for all. Should Judge Barrett ascend to the office of Supreme Court and gain a crucial vote in future landmark cases, it may well be used to reverse much of RBG’s lifelong work. With the impending Presidential election in the US already creating legal and political divisions, the question remains of whether the highest court will be swayed further right.