Notorious RBG

by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Clock Icon 20 minute read
 

“I just try to do the good job that I have to the best of my ability, and I really don’t think about whether I’m inspirational. I just do the best I can.”

—RBG, 2015

THIS IS WHAT you should look for on this 90-degree June morning: The broadcast news interns pairing running shoes with their summer business casual, hovering by the Supreme Court’s public information office. They’re waiting to clamber down the marble steps of the court to hand off the opinions to an on-air correspondent. You should count the number of boxes the court officers lay out, because each box holds one or two printed opinions. Big opinions get their own box. This contorted ritual exists because no cameras are allowed inside the court. It jealously guards its traditions and fears grandstanding.

What happens inside the hushed chamber is pure theater. Below the friezes of Moses and Hammurabi, the buzz-cut U.S. marshals scowl the visitors into silence. The justices still have ceramic spittoons at their feet. At 10 A.M. sharp, wait for the buzzer and watch everyone snap to their feet. As a marshal cries “Oyez, oyez, oyez!” watch Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known around the court as RBG, as she takes her seat at the winged mahogany bench. Look around her neck. When the jabot with scalloped glass beads glitters flat against the top of RBG’s black robe, it’s bad news for liberals. That’s her dissent collar.

On June 25, 2013, RBG’s mirrored dissent collar glinted blue and yellow in reflected light. By then, in her ninth decade of life and her twentieth year on the court, RBG looked fragile and bowed, dwarfed by the black high-backed chair. But people who had counted her out when she had cancer were wrong, both times. People who thought she couldn’t go on after the death of Marty Ginsburg, her husband of fifty-six years, were wrong too. RBG still showed up to do the work of the court without missing a day. She still pulled all-nighters, leaving her clerks voice mails with instructions at two or three in the morning.

The night before had been a long one. From RBG’s perch, third from the right in order of seniority, she sometimes gazed up at the marble columns and wondered to herself if she was really there or if it were all a dream. But that Tuesday morning, her eyes were on her notes. The opinion was long finished, but she had something else to say, and she wanted to get it right. She scribbled intently as Justice Samuel Alito, seated to her left, read two opinions, about land and a bitter custody case involving Indian law. Those were not the cases the cameras were waiting for. It was a two-box day. There was one more left.

It was Chief Justice John Roberts’s turn to announce an opinion he had assigned himself. The case was Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of a major portion of the Voting Rights Act.

Roberts has an amiable Midwestern affect and a knack for simple but elegant phrases that had served him well when he was a lawyer arguing before the justices. “Any racial discrimination in voting is too much,” Roberts declared that morning. “But our country has changed in the last fifty years.”

One of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation of the twentieth century had been born of violent images: the faces of murdered civil rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi; Alabama state troopers shattering the skull of young John Lewis on a bridge in Selma. But for this new challenge to voting rights that came from sixty miles from Selma, Roberts had a more comforting picture to offer the country. High black voter turnout had elected Barack Obama. There were black mayors in Alabama and Mississippi. The protections Congress had reauthorized only a few years earlier were no longer justifiable. Racism was pretty much over now, and everyone could just move on.

RBG waited quietly for her turn. Announcing a majority opinion in the court chamber is custom, but reading aloud in dissent is rare. It’s like pulling the fire alarm, a public shaming of the majority that you want the world to hear. Only twenty-four hours earlier, RBG had sounded the alarm by reading two dissents from the bench, one in an affirmative action case and another for two workplace discrimination cases. As she had condemned “the court’s disregard for the realities of the workplace,” Alito, who had written the majority opinion, had rolled his eyes and shook his head. His behavior was unheard of disrespect at the court.

On the morning of the voting rights case, the woman Alito had replaced, RBG’s close friend Sandra Day O’Connor, sat in the section reserved for VIPs. Roberts said his piece, then added, evenly, “Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion.”

RBG’s voice had grown both raspier and fainter, but that morning there was no missing her passion. Alito sat frozen, holding his fist to his cheek. The noble purpose of the Voting Rights Act, RBG said, was to fight voter suppression that lingered, if more subtly. The court’s conservative justices were supposed to care about restraint and defer to Congress, but they had wildly overstepped. “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA,” RBG had written in her opinion. Killing the Voting Rights Act because it had worked too well, she had added, was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

At stake, RBG told the courtroom, was “what was once the subject of a dream, the equal citizenship stature of all in our polity, a voice to every voter in our democracy undiluted by race.” It was an obvious reference to Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but the phrase equal citizenship stature has special meaning to RBG in particular.

Forty years earlier, RBG had stood before a different set of justices and forced them to see that women were people too in the eyes of the Constitution. That women, along with men, deserved equal citizenship stature, to stand with all the rights and responsibilities that being a citizen meant. As part of a movement inspired by King’s, RBG had gone from having doors slammed in her face to winning five out of six of the women’s rights cases she argued before the Supreme Court. No one—not the firms and judges that had refused to hire a young mother, not the bosses who had forced her out of a job for getting pregnant or paid her less for being a woman—had ever expected her to be sitting up there at the court.

RBG often repeated her mother’s advice that getting angry was a waste of your own time. Even more often, she shared her mother-in-law’s counsel for marriage: that sometimes it helped to be a little deaf. Those words had served her in the bad old days of blatant sexism, through the conservative backlash of the eighties, and on a court of people essentially stuck together for life. But lately, RBG was tired of pretending not to hear. Roberts had arrived with promises of compromise, but a few short years and a handful of 5–4 decisions were swiftly threatening the progress for which she had fought so hard.

That 2012–2013 term, reading dissents from the bench in five cases, RBG broke a half-century-long record among all justices. Her dissent in the voting rights case was the last and the most furious. At nearly 10:30 A.M., RBG quoted Martin Luther King directly: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” she said. But then she added her own words: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”

Not exactly poetry. But pure RBG. On or off the bench, she has always been steadfast, and when the work is justice, she has every intention to see it to the end. RBG has always been about doing the work.

People wondered where the quiet and seemingly meek RBG had gone, where this firebrand had come from. But the truth is, that woman had always been there.

YOU CAN’T SPELL TRUTH WITHOUT RUTH


RBG had launched her protest from the bench on the morning of June 25 hoping people outside the court would listen. They did. As it sunk in that the court had, in the words of civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis, put “a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act,” progressives felt a mix of despair and fury, but also admiration for how RBG had spoken up. “Everyone was angry on the Internet at the same time,” remembers Aminatou Sow. Sow and her friend Frank Chi were both young, D.C. based digital strategists, used to channeling their frustrations into shareable objects. They wanted to do something. Chi spontaneously took a Simmie Knox painting of RBG, with its cool, watchful eyes and taut mouth, and gave it a red background and a crown inspired by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Sow gave it words: “Can’t spell truth without Ruth.” They put it on Instagram, then plastered Washington with stickers.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, twenty-six-year-old law student Hallie Jay Pope started drawing. Her comic showed RBG patiently explaining to her colleagues what had gone wrong in each case that week. “RBG” finally loses it with “Roberts’s” glib exclamation in Shelby, “LOL racism is fixed!” Pope made an “I Heart RBG” shirt and donated the proceeds to a voting rights organization.

And in New York, twenty-four-year-old NYU law student Shana Knizhnik was aghast at the gutting of voting rights. The only bright spot for her was the unfettered rage of Justice Ginsburg—or, as her classmate Ankur Mandhania jokingly called the justice on Facebook, the Notorious R.B.G. Inspired, Shana took to Tumblr to create a tribute. To her, the reference to the 300-pound deceased rapper Notorious B.I.G. was both tongue-in-cheek and admiring. The humor was in the contrasts—the elite court and the streets, white and black, female and male, octogenarian and died too young. The woman who had never much wanted to make a stir and the man who had left his mark. There were similarities too. Brooklyn. Like the swaggering lyricist, this tiny Jewish grandmother who demanded patience as she spoke could also pack a verbal punch.

These appreciations were just the beginning. RBG, the woman once disdainfully referred to as “schoolmarmish,” the wrong kind of feminist, “a dinosaur,” insufficiently radical, a dull writer, is now a fond hashtag. Her every utterance is clickbait, and according to the headlines, she no longer says anything, but rather “eviscerates.” At least two different Notorious R.B.G. signature cocktails can be drunk in two different cities. Turn on the Cartoon Network and you might glimpse an action figure named Wrath Hover Ginsbot (“appointed for life to kick your butt”). RBG’s face is collaged, painted on fingernails, permanently tattooed on at least three arms, and emblazoned on Valentines and greeting cards with cute puns.

Hundreds of homemade RBG Halloween costumes come in baby and adult forms. By the spring of 2015, RBG was being namechecked anywhere a woman wanted to signal feminist smarts—by comedian Amy Schumer, by Lena Dunham on the show Scandal, and on The Good Wife. Comedian Kate McKinnon made RBG a recurring Saturday Night Live character, who crows each zinger, “Ya just got Gins-burned!” and bumps to a hip-hop beat. “I just want to say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most badass women in the world,” Sow announces. “I think people who are no-nonsense people are rewarded greatly by the Internet.”

 

All this is, to use the court’s language, without precedent. No other justice, however scrutinized or respected, has so captured the public’s imagination. The public image of RBG in her over thirty years as a judge was as a restrained moderate. The people closest to RBG find her entrance to the zeitgeist hilarious, if perplexing. “It’s hard for me to think of someone less likely to care about being a cult figure,” says David Schizer, a former RBG clerk and now a friend. “I would not have thought of her as hip,” says her son, James. The adoring portrayal of an older woman like RBG as both fierce and knowing, points out the feminist author Rebecca Traister, is “a crucial expansion of the American imagination with regard to powerful women.” For too long, Traister says, older women have been reduced in our cultural consciousness to “nanas, bubbes” or “ballbusters, nutcrackers, and bitches.” RBG’s old friend Gloria Steinem, who marvels at seeing the justice’s image all over campuses, is happy to see RBG belie Steinem’s own long-standing observation: “Women lose power with age, and men gain it.”

Historically, one way women have lost power is by being nudged out the door to make room for someone else. Not long before pop culture discovered RBG, liberal law professors and commentators began telling her the best thing she could do for what she cared about was to quit, so that President Barack Obama could appoint a successor. RBG, ardently devoted to her job, has mostly brushed that dirt off her shoulder. Her refusal to meekly shuffle off the stage has been another public, high-stakes act of defiance.

Seniority determines many of the court’s functions, from the order in which justices speak in meetings to who gets to assign opinions. When Justice John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, RBG became the most senior of the court’s liberals, a leadership role she has embraced. RBG stays because she loves her work, but also, it seems, because she thinks the court is headed in an alarming direction. After years of toil, often in the shadows, she is poised to explain to the country just what is going wrong. “I sense a shift in her willingness to be a public figure,” RBG’s former American Civil Liberties Union colleague Burt Neuborne says. “Perhaps I am a little less tentative than I was when I was a new justice,” RBG told The New Republic in 2014. “But what really changed was the composition of the Court.” It was a polite way of saying the court had lurched to the right.

RBG has never been one to shrink from a challenge. People who think she is hanging on to this world by a thread underestimate her. RBG’s main concession to hitting her late seventies was to give up waterskiing.

NOT A BOMB THROWER, BUT A BOMBSHELL ACHIEVER


Who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg? She takes her time, but nothing is lost on her. “She’s not just deliberative as a matter of principle but as a matter of temperament,” her friend the critic Leon Wieseltier has said. “A conversation with her is a special pleasure because there are no words that are not preceded by thoughts.” She is wholly committed, above all, to the work of the court. Kathleen Peratis, who succeeded RBG as director of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, said years ago, “Ruth is almost pure work. The anecdote that describes her best is that there are no anecdotes.” (The second part is not strictly true.) She has survived tragedies and calamities. People have found her somber, but it is sometimes because her humor is so deadpan dry that it escapes many. She can be exacting, but rewards with loyalty and generosity. She had a passionate love affair with her husband that lasted almost sixty years.

RBG is a woman who, to use another phrase that mattered a lot to her, defied stereotypes. When she was nominated to the Supreme Court, the Washington Post jointly interviewed two of her old ACLU colleagues, Peratis and former legal director Mel Wulf, and the pair struggled to explain RBG. “She’s conventional socially and politically and in every way, except for her intellect,” Wulf said, a tad dismissively. Peratis cut in, “Yeah, but Mel, you have to admit it was pretty unconventional in those days for a woman to raise a family, hold a job, go to law school.” Wulf, a man of the 1960s, shrugged. “I’ll say this, she is by no means a bomb thrower,” he insisted.

“But,” said Peratis, “the things she achieved were bombshells.”

Put another way, RBG was already a radical just by being herself—a woman who beat the odds to make her mark. Early in her career, RBG wanted to work at a law firm, maybe teach a little. The world as it was had no room for her. That injustice left her no choice but to achieve bombshells. It was easy to miss, maybe because it didn’t look like male bomb throwing. Or because she and her peers had transformed the world so much it was hard to remember, in retrospect and without living it, how hard it had been.

And yet as this book’s closer look at her life and work shows, RBG is about more than simply breaking glass ceilings to join a man’s world. As the cofounder of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, and often called the Thurgood Marshall of the women’s rights movement, RBG devised careful, incremental plans for revolutionary goals. She imagined a world where men transformed themselves alongside women and where sexual and reproductive freedom was grounded in women’s equality, and then she worked to make it real. Many of her ideals, from the liberation of men to the valuing of caregivers, remain unrealized. RBG’s longtime friend Cynthia Fuchs Epstein says, “I think had she not had this persona as this very soft-spoken, neat, and tidy person, with a conventional life, she would have been considered a flaming radical.”

If very few people recognized these things about RBG, she had preferred to keep it that way. “She subordinated her own persona into this machine,” says Neuborne. “The star of every production she had was the law, not the lawyer.”

But the arrival of two Bush appointees to the court gave a narrow majority to a conservative agenda of undermining remedies for racial justice, reproductive rights, access to health care, and protections for workers, while giving corporations ever more rights and political influence. Even the current balance, tipped rightward with a chance of wobble, is precarious. The next president may appoint as many as three justices.

RBG is determined to stick around and remind her colleagues and the country what she believes is America’s unfinished promise. She likes to quote the opening words of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union.” Beautiful, yes, but as she always points out, “we the people” originally left out a lot of people. “It would not include me,” RBG said, or enslaved people, or Native Americans. Over the course of the centuries, people left out of the Constitution fought to have their humanity recognized by it. RBG sees that struggle as her life’s work.

Maybe that’s why she’s keeping herself in fighting shape in the meantime. In late November 2014, RBG felt a little faint during a workout session with her regular personal trainer and had surgery so a stent could be placed in her right coronary. But she had plans to keep. RBG had invited Shana, Frank Chi, Aminatou Sow, and Ankur Mandhania to visit the court. “I would be glad to greet the clever creators of the Notorious R.B.G. in chambers,” she wrote. On December 10, the morning of a two-hour oral argument about the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, the meme-makers arrived.

At around noon, they filed tentatively into her chambers, as each justice’s personal domain is known. RBG stood, flanked by her clerks. Her slender wrist was slightly bruised from the heart stent procedure. Her guests asked her what message she had for all the young people who admired her.

RBG paused to think it over. “You can tell them,” she replied, “I’ll be back doing push-ups next week.”

 

1820


1828: Supreme Court justices bunk together, until one lady ruins it for everyone by insisting on living with her husband.

 

1830


 

1840


July 19–20, 1848

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”

—Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls

 

1850


December 1853

 

“Was invited to sit in the Chief Justice’s seat. As I took the place, I involuntarily exclaimed: ‘Who knows, but this chair may one day be occupied by a woman.’ The brethren laughed heartily.”

—abolitionist feminist Sarah Grimké

 

1860


July 28, 1868: The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, recognizing the citizenship rights of ex-slaves, promises equal protection under the law, but makes it clear only men’s voting rights count.

 

1870


April 15, 1873: The Supreme Court allows Illinois to block Myra Bradwell from practicing law just because she’s a woman. In a 2011 reenactment of the case, RBG rules for Bradwell.

 

“The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

—Justice Joseph P. Bradley, in a concurrence in Bradwell v. Illinois

 

“The method of communication between the Creator and the jurist is never disclosed.”

—RBG, brief to the Supreme Court, 1972

 

1880


 

1890


January 4, 1897: A woman abducted from her home at gunpoint wasn’t raped, the Supreme Court says in Mills v. United States, because for an act to be rape, “more force is necessary.”

 

1900


1903: Celia Amster, RBG’s mother, is born.

 

1910


 

1920


August 18, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment recognizes women’s right to vote, though violent barriers remain for women of color.

 

1930


June 10, 1932: Martin D. Ginsburg, future husband of RBG, is born.

March 15, 1933: Joan Ruth Bader, nicknamed Kiki, is born in Brooklyn.

 

1940


1944: Lucille Lomen becomes the first female clerk at the Supreme Court.

 

“When you say you have ‘no available graduates’ whom you could recommend for appointment as my clerk, do you include women? It is possible I may decide to take one, if I can find one who is absolutely first-rate.”

—Justice William O. Douglas, 1944

 

1950


June 1950: Celia Bader dies one day before her daughter’s high school graduation.

Fall 1950: RBG enrolls at Cornell.

Ruth Bader as a Cornell senior (December 1953) Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

1953: Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is published in the United States.

May 17, 1954: In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court reverses itself on “separate but equal.”

June 1954: Ruth Bader graduates from Cornell. She marries Marty at his family’s home.

July 21, 1955: Jane Ginsburg is born.

1956: RBG enrolls in Harvard Law School, one of only nine women in her class. In her second year, Marty is diagnosed with cancer.

 

“The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the 1940s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S.”

—RBG

Harvard Law School’s 1958 yearbook Historical and Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

1958: Marty graduates from Harvard Law School. RBG transfers to Columbia University School of Law.

Columbia Law School’s 1959 yearbook Columbia Law School

1959: RBG graduates from Columbia Law at the top of her class but can barely get a job.

 

1960


November 20, 1961: The Supreme Court signs off on making jury service optional because “woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life.”

December 1962: Civil rights activist Pauli Murray proposes using the Fourteenth Amendment to argue against sexist laws.

1963: RBG becomes the second woman to teach full-time at Rutgers School of Law.

 

“[The dean explained] it was only fair to pay me modestly, because my husband had a very good job.”

—RBG

Rutgers School of Law–Newark 1964 yearbook Rutgers School of Law–Newark

June 10, 1963: President John F. Kennedy signs the Equal Pay Act, which bans discrimination in pay on the basis of sex. It’s full of loopholes.

JFK signing the Equal Pay Act Abbie Rowe White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

July 2, 1964: President Lyndon Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act, which contains a last-minute ban on sex discrimination in employment.

 

“Unless [sex discrimination is banned], the white women of this country would be drastically discriminated against in favor of a Negro woman.”

—Representative Glenn Andrews of Alabama

LBJ signing Civil Rights Act with MLK, Jr. Hulton Archive Getty Images

1965: RBG publishes her first book, Civil Procedure in Sweden, with Anders Bruzelius.

 

“That’s why when the Supreme Court faces a tricky question of Swedish civil procedure, we always go straight to Justice Ginsburg.”

—Justice Elena Kagan

June 7, 1965: The Supreme Court finds that Connecticut’s birth control ban violates a “right to marital privacy.”

Estelle Griswold, 1963 Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

September 8, 1965: RBG’s son, James Ginsburg, is born.

June 13, 1967: President Johnson nominates famed civil rights litigator Thurgood Marshall (and RBG inspiration) to be the first black justice of the Supreme Court.

 

1970


Spring 1970: RBG teaches her first class on women and the law.

 

“The Department of Justice, I am sure, doesn’t have any male secretaries. . . . They hire women secretaries because they are better.”

—Chief Justice Warren Burger at oral argument for Phillips v. Martin-Marietta, December 9, 1970

 

June 25, 1971: RBG writes her first brief to the Supreme Court in Reed v. Reed.

January 1972: RBG becomes the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School.

Professor Ginsburg, Columbia Law School Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Spring 1972: RBG cofounds the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

June 23, 1972: Richard Nixon signs into law Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in education.

January 22, 1973: In Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court makes abortion legal throughout the United States. RBG is uneasy about how the court got there, and how fast.

 

“This right of privacy . . . is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

—Justice Harry Blackmun, Roe v. Wade

 

1974: RBG publishes the first-ever casebook on sex discrimination. She insists that the authors’ names be listed alphabetically, even though doing so means the one man’s name will come first.

 

 

1980


April 11, 1980: President Jimmy Carter nominates RBG to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

August 19, 1981: President Ronald Reagan nominates Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first woman on the Supreme Court. Male justices who had made noises over the years about resigning if a woman ever joined their ranks stay put.

 

1990


June 14, 1993: President Bill Clinton nominates RBG to be an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

May 13, 1994: President Clinton nominates Stephen Breyer to replace Harry Blackmun as associate justice.

June 26, 1996: RBG writes the majority opinion in the landmark case United States v. Virginia, requiring the Virginia Military Institute to admit women.

Summer 1999: RBG is diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She does not miss a day on the bench.

 

2000


December 12, 2000: RBG is one of four dissenters in Bush v. Gore, which effectively declares George W. Bush president.

 

“The wisdom of the court’s decision to intervene and the wisdom of its ultimate determination await history’s judgment.”

—RBG, Bush v. Gore dissent

July 1, 2005: Sandra Day O’Connor announces her retirement. President George W. Bush nominates D.C. Circuit judge John Roberts as her replacement.

September 2005: Chief Justice Rehnquist, whom RBG would continue to call “my chief,” dies. President Bush switches Roberts’s nomination to chief justice and nominates Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito to replace O’Connor.

 

“To my sorrow, I am now what [O’Connor] was her first twelve years on the court—the lone woman.”

—RBG

April 18, 2007: RBG launches her era of furious dissent with the abortion case Gonzales v. Carhart.

 

“The Court . . . pretends that its decision protects women.”

—RBG, summarizing her dissent from the bench

May 29, 2007: RBG reads her dissent from the bench in the sex discrimination case of Lilly Ledbetter.

November 4, 2008: Barack Obama is elected the first black president.

 

“I don’t know. I hear that Justice Ginsburg has been working on her jump shot.”

—Barack Obama, after being invited to play basketball at the nation’s highest court

 

February 5, 2009: RBG has surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

February 23, 2009: RBG is back on the bench.

February 24, 2009: RBG attends President Obama’s first speech to Congress.

 

“I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn’t all male.”

—RBG

May 26, 2009: President Obama nominates Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. She is the first Latina justice.

 

2010


May 10, 2010: President Obama nominates Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

 

“I like the idea that we’re all over the bench. It says women are here to stay.”

—RBG

With Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, 2010 Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/Steve Petteway

June 27, 2010: Marty Ginsburg dies after complications from metastatic cancer.

Ruth and Marty dancing, 1998 Getty Images/Annie Groer/Washington Post

March 27, 2013

 

“There’s full marriage and then there’s sort of skim milk marriage.”

—RBG at oral argument in United States v. Windsor, the successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act

June 25, 2013: As RBG dissents in a case gutting the Voting Rights Act, Notorious R.B.G., the Tumblr, is born.

August 2013: RBG becomes the first Supreme Court justice to officiate a same-sex wedding.

 

“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship.”

—RBG on performing same-sex weddings

June 30, 2014: In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court allows corporations to refuse contraceptive coverage to women based on the employer’s religious belief.

February 12, 2015: RBG admits she was not “100 percent sober” at the State of the Union.

February 28, 2015: RBG becomes a recurring character on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, issuing “Ginsburns” between dance moves.

 

2020


 

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

—RBG, Hobby Lobby dissent

 

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