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In Lisner talk, Ginsburg champions Equal Rights Amendment

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at Lisner Auditorium Friday for Constitution Day. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at Lisner Auditorium Friday for a Constitution Day celebration. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Avery Anapol.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a packed Lisner Auditorium on Friday that she sees one glaring error in the U.S. Constitution: It lacks an amendment that promises equal rights for women.

Ginsburg spoke opposite Maeva Marcus, a GW Law School professor and the director of the Institute for Constitutional History, as part of the sixth annual Capital City Constitution Day celebration. The conversation was centered on the theme of “Women and the Constitution.”

“If you pick up any constitution written since 1950, any place in the world, there will be a provision on the equal citizenship stature of men and women. It’s not in our constitution,” Ginsburg said. “I would like to see a statement of women’s full citizenship in the constitution on par with our freedom of speech, freedom of religion. It’s a basic tenet of our society.”

She said she felt “lucky to be born at the right time to advance women’s equality,” and said she has seen a great deal of change since she studied at Harvard Law School, where she was one of just nine women in her 500-student entry-level class.

“Employers were totally up front about saying, ‘We don’t want lady lawyers,’” Ginsburg said.

Since then, Ginsburg said several cases have helped advance women’s rights: One was the 1971 Sally Reed case, which overturned an Idaho law that allowed men to be chosen as the executors of an estate over women on the basis of sex.

Ginsburg had acted as Sally Reed’s attorney when she was a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. She fought for the divorced mother’s right to her deceased son’s estate, which had been handed over to her ex-husband because Idaho law gave preference to men.

Throughout her tenure as a lawyer and justice, Ginsburg has aimed to challenge the stereotypes of men as breadwinners and women as caretakers.

“No one, male or female, should be held back from opportunity,” Ginsburg said.

She also pointed to changes in the historically male-dominated Supreme Court. She said women are “no longer one at a time curiosities,” highlighting the strengths of her fellow female justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

“Those women are not shrinking violets, they are very active in the dialogue between the lawyers and the justices,” she said.

Last year’s Constitution Day event featured Justice Antonin Scalia, who told the Lisner crowd he believed the Constitution and Supreme Court justices cannot answer every moral question.

Members of the audience this year cheered for Ginsburg during the talk, with some wearing “Notorious RBG” t-shirts, and gave her a standing ovation.

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