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Reflecting on the meaning of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Over this weekend, we all should take a moment to reflect on the meaning of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her life, and her passing.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg became just the second woman to join the Supreme Court of the United States, I was a student at Cornell Law School, her undergraduate alma mater. We were all so proud of her and excited for what she would do for the law, and for the country. In Constitutional law, we studied the cases upon which she had worked, cases that piece by piece broke down antiquated gender barriers.

We took special note that she did so for men as well as women, securing veteran's and social security benefits, for example, for widowers who prior to those legal successes had been denied benefits because of archaic stereotypes of the roles that men and women play in society. How smart a tactic that was! Justice Ginsburg deployed a conservative strategy to break stereotypes and win expanded rights. What was less apparent to us was the broader scope of her commitment. Cofounder of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, Justice Ginsburg argued more than 300 gender discrimination cases — six before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Demur and unpresuming in person, Justice Ginsburg was a relentless fighter for civil rights in the law and in her personal life. Battling cancer for years, she had hoped to remain alive until a new president could nominate her replacement. She passed instead on the Jewish New Year, reminding us that no matter how dark the night, we should rise and continue the fight for fairness, justice, and opportunity with every new day.

Indeed, there is much for us to continue in that effort. In our own district, we have a representative who voted several times to block consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act (in a district where women earn nearly $10,000 less than men). Tom Reed also voted against consideration of an amendment that prevented insurance plans from charging women higher premiums than men. In 2016, he voted for an act that allowed bosses to block access to women's healthcare, and he's voted several times to defund Planned Parenthood and teen pregnancy prevention programs. Finally, he has opposed additional funding for programs designed to address sexual assault and domestic violence. Exactly the kind of archaic and unfeeling prejudice that Justice Ginsburg worked against her entire adult life.

Despite all of the challenges we face, Justice Ginsburg would want us to be strong, courageous, and forthright. And that is exactly what we all will be. We will not let a Republican-controlled Senate advance a nomination. We will not let the courts take away the rights we worked so hard to gain. Hang on, hold tight. We need each other, we will get through this dark night, and with your help we will win this election and bring this fight for the 23rd District directly to Congress.


Posted on September 20, 2020.

Meet Tracy Mitrano

Tracy Mitrano is a cybersecurity expert, teacher, and mother. She was born and raised in Western New York and has lived in the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes throughout her adult life.

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