Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-12-08



Justice Ginsburg at CFW in Chicago
by Marie-Jo Proulx

This article shared 2276 times since Wed Dec 14, 2005
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Pictured Ruth Bader Ginsburg (left) and panelists Judge Ann Williams; corporate litigator Tina Tchen; and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Photos by Marie-Jo Proulx

To celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the Chicago Foundation for Women ( CFW ) this year created the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Award and invited the Supreme Court Justice to come inaugurate the prize in person. Long considered a pioneer in women's rights and admired by many for her intellect and grace, Ginsburg accepted and also agreed to participate in a panel discussion. Her Dec. 10 visit at the Harold Washington Library's Winter Garden sold out almost instantly.

In presenting the award, Lois Lipton, CFW board chair, outlined a number of Ginsburg's personal accomplishments and legal victories on behalf of women. As a young Jewish mother and one of only nine women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School in 1956, Ginsburg faced a daunting environment. Nevertheless, she earned top grades and obtained a coveted position at the law review. When she and her husband moved to New York, she completed her degree at Columbia, where she again worked for the law review, becoming the first woman ever to do so at two institutions.

In 1962, Ginsburg joined the law faculty at Rutgers University and fought for maternity leave rights for schoolteachers in New Jersey. Named the first director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project in 1972, she continued her work as a staunch advocate for gender equality, eventually arguing six such cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ginsburg was nominated to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Carter in 1980, where she served until 1994, when President Clinton tapped her for the country's highest court. Three years later, she wrote the majority opinion in the landmark Virginia Military Institute case, declaring the college's 150-year old male-only admissions policy unconstitutional.

Despite a long list of distinguished achievements, in accepting the CFW award, Ginsburg spoke very little of her own career and views, preferring instead to lavish praise on her retiring colleague, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. As the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, O'Connor was an obvious role-model, but Ginsburg said she also proved a supportive mentor with boundless energy and impressive diplomatic skills when in chambers. Recounting a personal anecdote, Ginsburg told of how after writing her first opinion for the court, she received a hand-written note from O'Connor congratulating her sound reasoning, even though O'Connor was herself in the dissenting minority.

Thanking the audience for their patience, Ginsburg finished her address to a standing ovation and unceremoniously regained her seat among the other panelists. Attorney Fay Clayton then introduced the participants. Clayton has herself argued before the Supreme Court, winning a unanimous decision for NOW in a case against Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion protesters who were threatening patients and blocking access to clinics. The 1998 verdict resulted in a nationwide injunction prohibiting such interference, which still holds today but has been repeatedly challenged. In fact, Justice Ginsburg and her colleagues heard oral arguments on the matter earlier this month.

Also on the panel were Judge Ann Williams, the first African-American woman to be appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit; corporate litigator Tina Tchen, a veteran of the Equal Rights Amendment ( ERA ) battle; and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who successfully argued the so-called 'dog sniffing' Fourth Amendment case before the Supreme Court in January of this year. In a conciliatory tone that had everyone chuckling, Clayton announced that the fact that Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion in the case would not be discussed.

Williams began the conversation by asking Ginsburg where she had looked for inspiration in deciding to embark on a legal career. 'First, growing up, Nancy Drew,' she replied with a smile, prompting a burst of laughter and clapping from the crowd. She then recalled how employment discrimination was keeping many women out of the work force and almost all of them from occupying influential positions on the national scene. But, she went on, in the late 1970s President Carter 'changed the landscape with appointments.' Indeed, while he never got to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, in the four years he was in office Carter elevated 11 women to District Court positions and sent 25 others to the Circuit Courts. Those promotions opened doors onto new possibilities, Ginsburg explained.

Tchen then asked Ginsburg to talk about how she had experienced feminism. In a detailed answer, Ginsburg spoke of her students at Rutgers who were asking for courses on women and the law; the large number of complaints by women coming to the ACLU's attention; the declaration of International Women's Year ( 1975 ) by the United Nations; and reading The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir's enlightening book on the status of women.

Referring to the 1972 passage of the ERA by Congress and its subsequent rejection by individual state legislatures, Ginsburg stated that she remains a supporter of the amendment, which was originally introduced in 1923. However, she expressed dismay that such an additional provision should even be required in order to ensure gender equality. Quoting the Fourteenth Amendment's first words, 'All persons,' she commented: 'You would think that would be enough.'

Looking to the future, Madigan inquired how it would feel to be the only woman on the Supreme Court for the first time. While she acknowledged that she would miss the camaraderie, Ginsburg rejoiced at the thought that many more women attorneys now argue before the Court and serve as clerks. But she conceded that a certain catching-up is in order. Comparing the U.S. to its closest neighbor, she pointed out that four of the nine Justices on the current Canadian Supreme Court, including its Chief Justice, are women.

When audience members got the opportunity to pose their own questions, a woman touched on the Bush Administration's war on terrorism, and deplored how government lawyers have effectively legalized the use of torture and circumvented international agreements on the treatment of detainees. She wondered whether the U.S. would ever be able to rehabilitate its tarnished human-rights record. Ginsburg's response was categorical: When it comes to treaties the U.S has signed, with ratification by the Senate, obeying all of their provisions is the only legal course of action. 'International law is part of our law,' she affirmed.

Moreover, stressing the importance of 'looking abroad' to inform one's understanding of complex issues, Ginsburg advised against systematically ignoring the findings of other jurisdictions. While not advocating for the U.S Supreme Court to follow other countries' edicts, she warned, 'We will not be listened to if we don't listen in return.'

A young lawyer remembered the embarrassment she felt for her profession and the country's legal establishment in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Bush campaign in the controversial Bush v. Gore presidential election case. In what constituted the afternoon's less expansive answer, Ginsburg simply said, 'It was out of order,' before adding that the decision has not been cited in other briefs or arguments because there exists an implicit belief that doing so would not be wise. She hinted that, having now moved on, the Court had no intention of revisiting the messy situation. At the time, she wrote one of four dissenting opinions and joined the other three.

Finally, when Madigan asked, 'What can we be doing as feminists?' Ginsburg mentioned the education of young women as the prime task. 'I put my money on the women and that is what this foundation is doing,' she proclaimed, clearly pleased to have shared a part of her day with those who share her ideals.

This article shared 2276 times since Wed Dec 14, 2005
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Supreme Court Justice Breyer to retire; groups urge Biden to increase court's diversity
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer—the panel's oldest member—plans to retire, giving President Joe Biden his first opportunity to nominate a member of the nation's top court. Breyer, 83, informed the president last week of his ...

Gay News

Justice Stephen Breyer, champion of LGBTQ+ equality, to retire; HRC comments
-- From a press release - WASHINGTON — Today, in response to United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer announcing his retirement, Human Rights Campaign Interim President Joni Madison issued the following statement: "With Justice ...

Gay News

VIEWPOINT: FDA must lift discriminatory blood-donor policy
With the nation's blood supply at its lowest point in a decade, and the American Red Cross declaring its first-ever national blood crisis earlier this month, it is time for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ...

Gay News

Equality California endorses openly LGBTQ+ candidates for state legislature
-- From a press release - SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For the first time in history, California's Legislative LGBTQ Caucus could increase to 10% of the state legislature in 2022. Equality California, the nation's largest statewide LGBTQ+ ...

Gay News

Indiana Court of Appeals denies trans teen's birth certificate gender-marker change
Last August, the Indiana Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one ruling, denied the request of a transgender teen's ("H.S.") to have his birth certificate's gender marker changed from female to male. A trial court judge in ...

Gay News

Report: Taliban targeting LGBT Afghans
OutRight Action International and Human Rights Watch said in a report that LGBT Afghans and people who do not conform to rigid gender norms in Afghanistan have faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to ...

Gay News

Ex-NU professor sentenced for fatally stabbing boyfriend
On Jan. 25, former Northwestern University professor Wyndham Latham—who, in October 2021, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Trenton Cornell—was sentenced to 53 years in prison, WGN-TV reported. Lathem, 47, was ...

Gay News

Michigan settlement lets faith-based agencies reject same-sex adoptions
Faith-based adoption agencies that contract with Michigan can refuse to place children with same-sex couples under a proposed settlement filed in federal court, a HuffPost item noted. The development happened months after the U.S. Supreme Court ...

Gay News

Florida lawmakers pass "Don't Say Gay" bill, Black LGBTQ+ civil rights group responds
-- From a National Black Justice Coalition press release - FLORIDA — The Florida House Education & Employment Committee has passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. This bill and its companion Senate bill SB 1834 would ...

Gay News

Pope Benedict admits mistake in sex-abuse case
On Jan. 24, retired Pope Benedict XVI admitted that he did attend a meeting in Munich in 1980 where an abusive priest was discussed, saying an earlier denial was the result of an editing mistake, according ...

Gay News

Cook County gets $500K from MacArthur Foundation to increase racial equality in justice system
-- From a press release - [Chicago, Jan. 24, 2022] — Last week, Cook County was announced as the recipient of a $500,000 grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to build upon existing efforts to address racial and ...

Gay News

WORLD Namibia ruling, crimes, LGBTQ+ film festival, blogger sentenced
Namibia's High Court ruled against two same-sex couples fighting for recognition of their marriages, with Judge Hannelie Prinsloo saying she agreed with them but was bound by the nation's prohibition of same-sex relations, Reuters reported. Daniel ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Trans deaths, N.J. official, political items, 'Queer Eye'
The murders of two Black transgender women in the early days of the new year struck an ominous tone in the wake of two of the deadliest years on record for transgender Americans, Gay City News ...

Gay News

Chile president-elect names LGBTQ+ people to his Cabinet
Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric—who won a runoff election on Dec. 21, 2021—named two openly LGBTQ+ people to his Cabinet on Jan. 21, the Los Angeles Blade reported. Marco Antonio Avila, a gay man, will be the ...

Gay News

Lambda Legal issues assessment of Biden-Harris administration's work for LGBTQ+, HIV communities
-- From a press release - Washington, D.C. — Lambda Legal released a new comprehensive report that assesses the Biden-Harris administration's first year with respect to its impact on the LGBTQ+ community and everyone living with HIV. While the report identifies significan ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.