By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have stood a little over five feet, but those remembering her say she was a giant on the nation’s highest court, and her influence will be felt for generations.
Tennessee State University joined the country in mourning her death.
“If ever there was a crusader for justice, she was that, and more,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Early on in her legal profession, Justice Ginsburg helped to reshape history as a staunch advocate for equal protection and opportunity for women under the constitution. She consistently delivered votes on the most divisive social issues, including voting rights, health care, and affirmative action. And it is in that same spirit of perseverance, equality and justice, that we will continue her legacy.”
Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, a Women’s Studies faculty member and dean of the College of Liberal Arts at TSU, said Ginsburg “achieved icon status usually reserved for film and music stars.”
“Besides Thurgood Marshall, I cannot think of another member of SCOTUS to be this recognizable as an individual,” Morgan-Curtis said. “At 5-foot-1, she towered over everyone else on the bench. She was a giant, in her own right.”
Morgan-Curtis added that Ginsburg’s work with the American Civil Liberties Union, where she founded the Women’s Rights Project, pushed the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment for both men and women, as well as minorities.
“The fact that states cannot set different drinking ages for men and women results from Ginsburg’s work as an attorney. The protection for men as care givers comes from her work.”
Morgan-Curtis said Ginsburg’s majority opinions also “pushed fair and equal protection under the law, and many argue that her dissent in the Ledbetter case was the blueprint for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”
That legislation, which dealt with equal pay and amended part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was the first bill signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2009.
Following Ginsburg’s passing, an effort is underway to replace her prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election. TSU Political Science Professor Shameka Cathey said the replacement of Ginsburg before the election “could put our country in limbo.”
“We would have a nation of people who are swinging to the left, with a Supreme Court on the right,” said Cathey, whose focus includes civil rights and African American politics. “The impact could lead to a Supreme Court turning back the clock on civil rights, voting rights, and many other vital rights central to the heart of our democracy.”
However, regardless of who replaces Ginsburg, TSU junior Tiara Thomas said her impact will not be diminished.
“Justice Ginsburg made a space for women in society, when there seemed to be none available,” said Thomas, a political science major from Olive Branch, Mississippi. “And this is what my peers and I can do to keep her legacy alive. We will continue to fight for safe spaces for ourselves, to advance and change the world.”
To learn more about Women’s Studies at TSU, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/cla/programs/womensstudies.aspx.