Ginsburg remembered by New York lawmakers as ‘unparalleled voice for our better angels’

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a 2018 event in Brooklyn. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Leaders across New York City mourned the loss of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Brooklyn native and champion of equal rights who died Friday at the age of 87. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the entire state is “absolutely devastated” by Ginsburg’s passing, noting that “her life was a testament that tough does not preclude acting with respect, grace, and dignity.”

“As an advocate, litigator, professor, and judge, Justice Ginsburg was an unparalleled voice for our better angels and a singular force for equality and justice throughout her extraordinary career,” the governor said in a statement. “In an era when women like her were asked why they were ‘taking the place of a man,’ she fought tirelessly to ensure our country lived up to its founding ideals, especially for all those marginalized by the status quo — from women and communities of color, to the disabled and the LGBTQ community.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit with a tweet in which he proclaimed Ginsburg’s New York toughness and tenacity in character.

“Like so many of you, I’m crushed that we lost an incomparable icon,” de Blasio tweeted. “A daughter of Brooklyn. A tenacious spirit who moved this country forward in fairness, equality and morality. She was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She never backed down from a fight. Tonight her hometown and world mourn.”

New York’s Senatorial delegation also mourned her passing.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said that Ginsburg “lived an extraordinary life” in fighting “to ensure equal protection in our laws, fearlessly dissented and defended, and was a powerful role model for us all.”

“I’m devastated to hear of her passing,” Gillibrand tweeted. “Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. Rest in power.”

Senator Charles Schumer, a fellow Brooklynite and Senate minority leader, praised Ginsburg as a “giant in American history, a champion for justice [and] a trailblazer for women.”

“She would want us all to fight as hard as we can to preserve her legacy,” Schumer tweeted.

He also said that her vacancy on the bench should not be filled “until we have a new president,” following the precedent that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set in 2016 in not considering President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

More reaction from New York pols

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left an indelible mark on this country, and her loss will be deeply felt. She will be remembered for her brilliant mind, her razor sharp wit, and her tenacious and lifelong fight to protect the rights of women in this country,” said Manhattan/Brooklyn Congressman Jerry Nadler. “In a year of incalculable loss, may we pause for a moment to honor this remarkable woman who never backed down from a fight and was never afraid to stand up for what she believed. I send my most heartfelt condolences to her family, colleagues, and loved ones. May her memory be a blessing.” 

“Tonight we lost a titan,” Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng tweeted. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a national icon who leaves behind an incredible legacy of standing up for & fighting for women’s equality. Our country was fortunate to have her sitting on the nation’s highest court. Keeping her family in my thoughts.”

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her entire life as a fierce advocate for women’s rights & equality for all,” Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke wrote on Twitter. “Brooklyn has lost our hometown hero. America has lost a champion for social justice and fairness. Each day we will strive to be more like her. May she rest in peace.”

“Justice Ginsburg was an inspiration to countless women including me. I am privileged to have known her and my heart goes out to her children,” tweeted Manhattan/Queens/Brooklyn Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

“We have lost a giant in the history of our nation with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Bronx/Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, pivoting to the anticipated battle over filling Ginsburg’s seat. “It is heartbreaking that in her final moments she was, as are many others, preoccupied with what would happen after her passing. Now is not the time for cynicism or hopelessness. There is and continues to be political possibility to preserve our democracy & move forward. It will require each & every one of us, from the streets to the Senate, to grow in courage, strength, and strategy. But it is possible.”

“A daughter of Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg spent her life tirelessly advocating for the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized in our society, from women to the LGBTQ+ community,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “We owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude, and send our love and prayers to her family and all those devastated by this loss.”

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy as a jurist was incredible – inspiring, progressive and just. Her impact on the court was tremendous in scope and in value as we strive for an America that lives up to its promise,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said. “Her resilience seemed unmatchable as she worked to fulfill that promise. Her passing in this time, in this moment of history, is an unfathomable loss which will reverberate with the volume of her legacy, her volumes of work, for many years to come.”

A transcendent champion of equality

Born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, Ruth Bader grew up in the neighborhood of Midwood area and would go on to graduate from James Madison High School. She later graduated from Cornell University and married law student Martin Ginsburg. 

In 1956, the Ginsburgs relocated to Massachusetts and Ruth became a student at Harvard Law School. Excelling in a male-dominated environment, she became the first woman named to the Harvard Law Review. 

They then returned to New York after Martin was hired by a law firm, and Ruth became a student at Columbia Law School, where she graduated in 1959. Over the next 20 years, she would serve as clerks to various judges and as the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights project, arguing for cases in support of gender equality in America.

President Jimmy Carter appointed RBG in 1980 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She would serve there for 13 years until President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court in 1993; the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed her nomination in a 96-3 vote.

During her 27 years on the nation’s highest bench, Ginsburg became an icon for equal rights cases, siding with the majority on landmark decisions promoting gender equality as well as the legalization of same-sex marriage. 

“The Notorious RBG,” as fans called her, became a cultural icon in recent years for her legacy and legal rulings. A feature film, “On the Basis of Sex,” dramatized her career as a civil rights attorney on the silver screen, and in 2018, she was the subject of the biographical documentary “RBG.” Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon also popularized her further with a hilarious imitation. 

Biographical information sourced from biography.com.