Five of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s historic moments as she marks 25 years as Supreme Court Justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has reached the milestone 25 years as a US Supreme Court justice. Her legacy has been marked by a number of historic moments –  and dissents – throughout the years. 

As the second woman ever to be appointed to America’s highest court, Justice Ginsburg has served as a symbol for women’s rights advocacy and a US cultural icon overall. Her influence on the high court has made her a cultural phenomenon – and perhaps one of the best-known justices. 

Ms Ginsburg’s 25th year as a Supreme Court Justice comes amid the release of mainstream projects that honour her legacy. A CNN documentary on the justice, released in cinemas earlier this year, titled RBG, became a box-office hit. 

A trailer for a new biopic on Ms Ginsburg called, On the Basis of Sex, was released last month.

At 85 years old, the Supreme Court justice has undoubtedly left a mark in US policies and culture and she has signalled she has no plans of slowing down soon.

Here are five of Ms Ginsburg’s historic moments on the Supreme Court:

Majority opinion in 1996 Virginia Military Institute case 

Ms Ginsburg notably gave the majority opinion in a Supreme Court ruling that Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) male-only admission’s policy was unconstitutional, as it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. Ms Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the court. 

“Neither the goal of producing citizen soldiers nor VMI’s implementing methodology is inherently unsuitable to women,” the opinion read. “And the school’s impressive record in producing leaders has made admission desirable to some women. Nevertheless, Virginia has elected to preserve exclusively for men the advantages and opportunities a VMI education affords…”

The Supreme Court Justice visited VMI, some 20 years after delivering her momentous opinion in a ruling that deeply changed the institute. 

A fiery 2013 dissent to a Supreme Court ruling on voting rights protections

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to strike down a provision of the US 1965 Voting Rights Act in which states had to get approval or “preclearance” from the US Justice Department before enacting major changes to voting laws in its respective state. Ms Ginsburg’s dissent included noteworthy lines, like: “When confronting the most constitutionally invidious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system, Congress’ power to act is at its height”.

Ms Ginburg’s energising dissent inspired a viral social media meme “Notorious R.B.G” – a play on hip hop icon Notorious BIG – created by then law student Shana Knizhnik. 

Landmark 1999 Olmstead v. LC case on rights for persons with disabilities 

Ms Ginsburg notably delivered the majority opinion for the landmark civil rights case that ruled 6-3 that people with disabilities had the right, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to receive state-funded support and services in their communities, instead of only segregated environments. 

The monumental 2015 Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages 

Ms Ginsburg, a supporter of equal rights for the LGBTQ community, voted in favour of granting same-sex couples the right to get married in all 50 states. The 5-4 ruling in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges made history.

The Supreme Court justice was outspoken in her objection to her same-sex marriage opponents in the high court. 

“Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition,” Ms Ginsburg notably said. “Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female that ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down. Would that be a choice that state should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”

Supreme Court tackling Texas’ HB 2 bill 

In 2016 the Supreme Court ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to strike down two anti-abortion provisions in Texas which provided that doctors had to have “admitting privileges” at a nearby hospital to provide abortions at any stage of pregnancy. Furthermore, it forced clinics to become “ambulatory surgical centres” to provide abortions. The majority opinion, written by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, found that the provisions did not offer medical benefits “sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes”. 

In her concurrence Ms Ginsburg wrote: “It is beyond rational belief that HB 2 could genuinely protect the health of women”.

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