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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Will Be First Woman To Lie In State At U.S. Capitol

Topline

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will make history Friday as the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, an honor granted since 1852 to America’s “most distinguished citizens.”

Key Facts

Ginsburg will be the first woman to lie in state, a distinction given to 32 people, including 12 presidents.  

Civil rights activist Rosa Park became the first woman to lie in honor in 2005, public records show, making her one of four civilians to be so commemorated.

Key Background

Any person who has “rendered distinguished service to the nation” may lie in state if the family chooses and Congress approves. In the case of unknown soldiers, the president or the appropriate branch of the armed forces initiates the action. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) was the most recent person laid in state after he died of cancer in July at age 80. There was a funeral and ceremony for invited guests in the Capitol, which was limited in size because of the pandemic. The casket was placed outdoors on the East Front Portico so visitors from across the nation could line up, 6 feet apart, to pay tribute to the life of the 17-year representative and civil rights activist. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Monday that Ginsburg will lie in state in the National Statuary Hall, a chamber in the Capitol with sculptures of prominent Americans. Ginsburg will also lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday, the high court said Monday. 

Tangent

It is fitting that Ginsburg is the first woman to receive the honor, having broken barriers for women throughout her legal career. In the 1970s, she led the legal fight for gender equality. At the time, hundreds of state and federal laws restricted what women could do, some of which Ginsburg successfully argued against in court. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU. She became a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Clinton in 1993. She was the second female Justice and served more than 27 years. When she was in her 80s, she became a liberal icon, especially among young feminists. She was the subject of a hit documentary, a biopic, books, an operetta, merchandise and regular Saturday Night Live sketches. Ginsburg was crowned with her Notorious RBG moniker — a play on rapper Biggie Smalls’ stage name of Notorious B.I.G. — in 2013 when New York University law student Shana Knizhnik created a Tumblr bearing the name to highlight Ginsburg’s dissent in the landmark Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. “Throwing out pre-clearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” she wrote in her dissent. The name stuck and Ginsburg was such a fan that, in 2014, she said had “quite a large supply” of Notorious RBG t-shirts to give as gifts.  

Further Reading

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies At 87 (Forbes)

How The World’s Most Powerful Women Are Mourning The Death Of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Forbes)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Indelible Mark On American Business (Forbes)

From Sheryl Sandberg To Tory Burch: Power Women Pay Tribute To Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Forbes)

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