Judge Ginsburg first woman to lie in state at US Capitol

Updated 26 Sep 2020

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WASHINGTON: Members of Congress and guests pay their respects to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her casket lies in state during a memorial service in the  US Capitol on Friday.—Reuters
WASHINGTON: Members of Congress and guests pay their respects to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her casket lies in state during a memorial service in the US Capitol on Friday.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of gender equality, made history again on Friday as the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state in the US Capitol, encircled by images of prominent Americans.

Ginsburg, a stalwart liberal on the high court since 1993, died last Friday at age 87. Known simply as RBG, she was an icon to millions of Americans — especially young girls — after a long legal career built on fighting for gender equality.

Female members of Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans, planned to gather on the Capitol steps to pay their respects after a formal memorial ceremony in National Statuary Hall, where Ginsburg’s coffin was brought on Friday morning.

“We have a lot of cause for ... observance of a historic time, for a historic woman who did more for the equality of women than anybody in our history,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.

Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer stood at the entrance to the Capitol as Ginsburg’s coffin was brought to the Capitol after a public visitation across the street at the Supreme Court, the hearse flanked by four police motorcycles.

“Her passing is like a death in so many families in our country because so many people pinned their hopes, heeded her guidance, admired her stamina, her love of the arts, bringing civility to her relationships in the court and in the country,” Pelosi said.

Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was also mourned at the Capitol in 2005, but as a private citizen she lay “in honor,” not “in state.” A statue of Parks, placed in 2013, will overlook Ginsburg’s casket during the ceremony.

Statuary Hall was prepared for the ceremony by Thursday afternoon. Thick black ribbons were affixed to the colossal marble columns around the room’s perimeter, surrounding the area where a catafalque was to hold Ginsburg’s flag-draped coffin.

Thousands of mourners flocked to the Supreme Court after Ginsburg’s death was announced, standing vigil and leaving flowers and signs.

President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov 3, was met with boos and jeers of “Vote Him Out” by a nearby crowd as he visited Ginsburg’s flag-draped coffin outside the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Just down a hallway from Statuary Hall, Trump’s fellow Republicans — who narrowly control the Senate — have pledged to confirm his as-yet-unidentified nominee to replace Ginsburg within the next few weeks, angering Democrats who feel he should wait until after the election.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who presided over Ginsburg’s confirmation hearings as a senator in 1993, was to be among those at the Capitol for Friday’s ceremony.

He has called for Republicans to honor her last wishes and not consider a nominee until after the presidential election.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ginsburg’s admirers had to pay their respects outdoors at her coffin for two days of public viewing under the Supreme Court’s soaring portico. The ceremony at the Capitol on Friday was limited to invited guests because of concerns about the virus.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020