These women are fighting to uphold Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy

At 82 years old and five-foot-one, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg listened carefully from behind the bench as lawyers made their arguments in a historic case. The courtroom was discussing hypotheticals, and the justice had a point to make.

The year was 2015, and the Supreme Court was reviewing a challenge to state laws banning same-sex marriage. One reason for such bans, lawyers had argued, was the state’s interest in procreation, in reserving legal marriage for those who can make babies together. The Court was discussing what this could mean for opposite-sex couples who didn’t want children. Were the states planning on asking every couple about their plans to reproduce?

“Suppose a couple, a 70­-year-old couple comes in and they want to get married. You don’t have to ask them any questions. You know they are not going to have any children,” Ginsburg proposed, prodding the states’ double standard. The courtroom laughed.

Throughout her career, Ginsburg’s sharp lines of reasoning advanced rights for the LGBTQ community, women, African Americans, immigrants, and inmates on death row. Her death last month from metastatic pancreatic cancer marked the loss of a prominent defender for those traditionally overlooked by the law.

Flowers, posters, and portraits of the late Justice were left outside the Supreme Court building after Ginsburg’s death on September 18 due to metastatic pancreatic cancer. The Associate Justice was 87 years old.

Photograph by Maddie McGarvey, National Geographic

The Republican-led Senate is expected to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative judge from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, to fill Ginsburg’s seat on October 26. Many are worried that Barrett will shift the Court further away from Ginsburg’s vision and overturn many of the rulings that defined her career. For women like Kelley Henry, an attorney who has represented death-row prisoners for more than 20 years, their work to uphold Ginsburg’s legacy feels more urgent than ever.

“[Ginsburg] spoke truth to power her entire career and made it possible for people like me to have the opportunity to do what I do,” Henry says. “I think the Constitution is the greatest document ever written, not because of the words on the paper, but because of the ideals that are behind it. I feel like every day that I go to work, I’m upholding those ideals.” (Here’s why filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year is so complicated.)

Equal protection for ‘any person’

When Ginsburg entered law school in 1956, the U.S. had thousands of laws on the books that treated women differently than men. Women could be fired for becoming pregnant, could not secure a mortgage without a man to co-sign, or be denied admission to a state-funded school based on their gender. Very few women practiced law. Ginsburg was one of only nine women in her class at Harvard Law School, and even though she later graduated at the top of her class at Columbia Law, where she’d transferred to join her husband

Kalamazoo women’s march honors Ginsburg’s legacy, encourages voters to head to polls

KALAMAZOO — More than a thousand people braved the chilly temperatures Saturday morning at Bronson Park for the Kalamazoo women’s rally and march in honor of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

a group of people walking down the street: Protesters march down South Park Street in downtown Kalamazoo, carrying signs and flags as part of the Kalamazoo women's march on Saturday, Oct. 17.

© Samuel J. Robinson |
Protesters march down South Park Street in downtown Kalamazoo, carrying signs and flags as part of the Kalamazoo women’s march on Saturday, Oct. 17.

The second demonstration of its kind in Kalamazoo since January, Saturday’s event coincided with marches held nationwide to celebrate the life and legacy of Ginsburg, ramp up voter enthusiasm and oppose the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Related: Women’s march in Ann Arbor encourages people to vote, empower women

More than 1,100 people gathered in Bronson Park, according to organizers. Some people brought signs, flags, facemasks and mementos that gave a nod to Ginsburg, who passed away on Sept. 18.

The event was emceed by Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore, who brought Kalamazoo’s DJ Chuck to provide live music and entertainment throughout the afternoon.

a group of people standing in front of a sign: People walk down Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo as part of the Kalamazoo women's march on Saturday, Oct. 17.

© Samuel J. Robinson |
People walk down Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo as part of the Kalamazoo women’s march on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Organizers said the death of Ginsburg, a leading litigator of women’s rights and an icon to advocates, and the subsequent nomination by President Trump to replace Ginsburg’s seat with Barrett, was the catalyst for Saturday’s event.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have debated whether or not the president should make a nomination so close to an election. A similar debate happened in 2016 when the Republican-led Senate blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination.

Joe “Annie” Morgan, the organizer behind Kalamazoo’s march Saturday said Republicans in the US Senate should let the people have a say in who they want to replace Ginsburg in the Supreme Court.

“The GOP trying to nominate Amy Barrett three weeks before an election, I mean c’mon— you want to talk about packing the court, that’s exactly what Republicans are doing,” Morgan said.

Morgan and others who took the stage stressed the march meant more than just a vocal opposition to Barrett’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court, which the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Oct. 22, but an opposition of everyone who they say is working against civil rights, the rights of women, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities.

a person holding a sign: Marchers begin walking down South Park Street carrying the women's march sign.

© Samuel J. Robinson |
Marchers begin walking down South Park Street carrying the women’s march sign.

“The most important thing we can do is vote,” said Diane Melvin, director of religious education at People’s Church in Kalamazoo. “It is time for us to rise up together for equity and justice — the time is right for change. We need to envision the type of world we want to live in, a community that regards all people regardless of gender, their gender identity, who they love or the color of their skin,” Melvin said.

a person holding a sign: Dozens of people came to Bronson Park carrying signs and flags in honor of late Justice Ginsburg.

© Samuel J. Robinson |
Dozens of people came

The legacy Meghan Duggan leaves for women in sport is worth more than gold

They were there when the youngest of the three children they raised in Danvers, one not yet double digits, declared for the world she would someday do exactly this, there to share in the euphoria of arguably the most thrilling American moment of the PyeongChang Games.

“In my mind, I was thinking, ‘This girl deserves this gold medal more than anybody I know,’ ” said Mary in a phone call. “I was relieved for that, and that I could watch the whole game without throwing up.”

“She worked so hard for so long to achieve that goal,” echoed Bob. “At that point, I didn’t care if she ever played again. She had really achieved the ultimate goal.”

And now, here they are, enjoying a beautiful autumn walk through Meghan’s Connecticut neighborhood, reflecting on a career that officially came to that close Tuesday, when Meghan announced her retirement.

They were there, and now they are here, pausing to honor a woman who didn’t just give USA Hockey everything she had on the ice, but everything she had off it too, her leadership in the fight for equality a testament to courage, fortitude, and fairness.

They are here, smiling at the daughter who, along with her wife Gillian, gave them their greatest gift, their first grandchild. The little Leap Day bundle of joy named George is destined to be the star of the next chapter of Meghan’s story, already fitted for a jersey, pads, and skates.

“My family means everything to me,” Duggan said on a Zoom call hosted by USA Hockey. “I wouldn’t have achieved or had the experiences I’ve had without them. The sacrifices they have made. The emotion they’ve poured in.

“They have given me every opportunity in the world to succeed, and I owe them so much. I’m very thankful to have them by my side to celebrate.”

She’s been flooded with memories, of early-morning practices and late-night drives, of never-ending workouts and ever-widening friendship groups, of being that 3-year-old who took to skates for the first time to the 33-year-old ready to hang them up.

“Why now? It was a gut feeling,” she said. “It was the right decision for myself and my family. I’m someone that has lived a lot of my life and played a lot of my career on heart and soul and how I feel and what’s going on in my mind.

“Hockey has given me everything. It’s been my life. I’ve grown up through the sport. I met my wife through hockey. We have our son through hockey. I’ve stood on podiums, and been challenged as a leader and as a person through hockey.”

And here’s the certainty as this part of the story comes to a close: She rose to the challenge. And in so doing, she leaves a mark on the game bigger than anything plated in gold. She leaves a legacy to future generations of athletes.

She stood up in a boardroom in March 2017 and spoke up for