I snapped one of my favorite photos a few years ago when my daughters and I were visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. 

After entering the building, we immediately ascended the stairs to the second floor where most of the historical portraits are hanging. As you crest the spiral staircase, a large portrait of the four U.S. Supreme Court justices who are women – retired Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – greets you.

I’ve been told that that particular portrait is photographed often, with young women standing next to it. Taking the photo was obligatory and awe-inspiring. To have my daughters stand in front of it was a strong reminder that because of those women, my daughters can achieve whatever careers they want to pursue. Their rights – to sign a mortgage in their own name, to receive the same pay as men for the same work, to have a choice in educational institutions, to become attorneys, to make choices and act on those choices for themselves – were expanded because of these women.  The careers of these justices and the work they did offered my daughters the chance for independence, and some of the same rights of their male counterparts. The portrait offered me hope that my daughters have the choice to use their passions and their intellect to make the world a better place. 

So, it was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Justice Ginsburg. 

Stages of grief come in waves. 

My first reaction to the news was great sadness. I simply couldn’t imagine a world without the intellect Ginsburg used to speak up for equality. The next stage was when I began to question how she could leave the court with so much work that is yet to be done. For example, on Nov. 10, the court is expected to hear arguments in the case concerning whether or not the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

If the court finds that it is not, millions of Americans stand to lose their health insurance and many others will lose coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The more I reflected on her passing and the more I picked up books and reread about her life and her work, I realized that Ginsburg had done her part and it’s up to us using democratic rules, following the laws laid before us, to continue her fight for equality. 

Justice Ginsburg never wavered in using the law to advance her arguments and beliefs. She demonstrated that laws were not meant to impose limitations on either sex based upon constricts of society.

In fact, one of the first cases Ginsburg litigated before the Supreme Court and won concerned a law that discriminated against a man.  Ginsburg represented a widower, a husband, who had lost his wife during childbirth. He was not allowed to collect the special benefits to care for his son. But those same benefits were easily awarded to women. As a young litigator working for the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginsburg argued that case to nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, all men, and showed that the law shouldn’t discriminate against either sex. 

After joining the Supreme Court, she went on to write the majority opinion in the Virginia Military Institute case, allowing women to matriculate to a university formerly only allowing men to enroll, giving women equal educational opportunities. She used the law to support that finding from a case written by her conservative counterpart, Justice O’Connor, who had written an opinion finding that males have rights to enter nursing schools. 

When Justice Ginsburg dissented, she was also as effective as if she had written the majority opinion. She dissented in the Lilly Ledbetter case, in which the Supreme Court found that a female had waited too long to file suit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which had paid Ledbetter’s male counterparts more than they paid Ledbetter, who performed the same job.

In a rare move, Justice Ginsberg read her entire dissent into the record. That dissent became law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which stated that women deserve equal pay for equal work, and was one of the first laws signed by former President Barak Obama.

Ginsburg implemented her same judicial beliefs in her personal life, as she and her late husband, Marty Ginsburg, shared in equality in their marriage. She noted that upon meeting Marty, he was one of the first men who was interested in Ginsburg for her brains. Ginsburg knew that in order for women to have equal rights, men needed to acknowledge those rights too.

One of my favorite stories of Ginsburg was as working mother.  In one phone call, after her son’s school called Ginsburg several times about her son, Ginsburg said to the person calling, “This child has two parents. Please alternate calls. It’s his father’s turn.” 

RBG helped make women’s rights, human rights. She used the law and democracy to bring equality for both sexes. Whether or not you agreed with her, you knew where she stood. She was not hypocritical, a character trait displayed by our Republican senators that has again become apparent in the week since Ginsburg’s passing. 

Just four years ago, the Republican Senate refused to advance the nomination of a replacement for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, saying that a lame duck president shouldn’t have the right to name a U.S. Supreme Court justice. The Republican senators should stand by their word too, just as Justice Ginsburg would, and not advance a nomination by President Trump to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat pending the election. 

Ellen Kreth is publisher of the Madison County Record and can be reached at ekreth@mcrecordonline.com