The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a huge tragedy for the United States and the world at a time of great peril for humanity. Her passing has deeply affected millions and prompted leaders at the local, state, and federal levels to reflect on her incredible life and legacy. Below is a compendium of statements NPI has received honoring the late Justice and all that she accomplished.
President Barack Obama:
Sixty years ago, Ruth Bader Ginsburg applied to be a Supreme Court clerk. She’d studied at two of our finest law schools and had ringing recommendations. But because she was a woman, she was rejected.
Ten years later, she sent her first brief to the Supreme Court — which led it to strike down a state law based on gender discrimination for the first time. And then, for nearly three decades, as the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single American.
Over a long career on both sides of the bench — as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist — Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are — and who we can be.
Justice Ginsburg inspired the generations who followed her, from the tiniest trick-or-treaters to law students burning the midnight oil to the most powerful leaders in the land.
Michelle and I admired her greatly, we’re profoundly thankful for the legacy she left this country, and we offer our gratitude and our condolences to her children and grandchildren tonight.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals.
That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored.
Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in.
A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment.
The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.
As votes are already being cast in this election, Republican Senators are now called to apply that standard. The questions before the Court now and in the coming years — with decisions that will determine whether or not our economy is fair, our society is just, women are treated equally, our planet survives, and our democracy endures — are too consequential to future generations for courts to be filled through anything less than an unimpeachable process.
President Bill Clinton:
We have lost one of the most extraordinary Justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and landmark opinions moved us closer to a more perfect union.
And her powerful dissents reminded us that we walk away from our Constitution’s promise at our peril.
President Jimmy Carter:
Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A powerful legal mind and a staunch advocate for gender equality, she has been a beacon of justice during her long and remarkable career. I was proud to have appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980. We join countless Americans in mourning the loss of a truly great woman. We will keep her family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic nominee for President:
Tonight our nation mourns an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She fought for all of us. As a young attorney, she persisted through every challenge that an unequal system placed in her way to change the laws of our land and lead the legal charge to advance equal rights for women.
It was my honor to preside over her confirmation hearings, and to strongly support her accession to the Supreme Court.
In the decades since, she was consistently and reliably the voice that pierced to the heart of every issue, protected the constitutional rights of every American, and never failed in the fierce and unflinching defense of liberty and freedom.
Her opinions, and her dissents, will continue to shape the basis of our law for future generations. May her memory be a blessing to all people who cherish our Constitution and its promise.
Tonight, and in the coming days, we should be focused on the loss of Justice Ginsburg and her enduring legacy. But just so there is no doubt, let me be clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg.
This was the position that the Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were nearly nine months before the election.
That is the position the United States Senate must take now, when the election is less than two months away.
We are talking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. That institution should not be subject to politics.
Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic nominee for Vice President:
Tonight we mourn, we honor, and we pray for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her family. Tomorrow we fight for her legacy.
For all who believe in the power of the law as a force for change, Justice Ginsburg was and will always be a titan.
She was a relentless defender of justice in our country and a legal mind for the ages. She also remained, throughout her life, a proud daughter of Brooklyn, with immigrant roots and a fire lit from an early age as a champion for progress and equality.
Justice Ginsburg was known to pose the question, ‘What is the difference between a bookkeeper in the Garment District and a Supreme Court justice?” Her answer: “One generation.” She never forgot where she came from, or those who sacrificed to help her grow into the historic icon we all came to revere.
Even as we focus on the life that she led and process tonight’s grief, her legacy and the future of the court to which she dedicated so much can’t disappear from our effort to honor her. In some of her final moments with her family, she shared her fervent wish to “not be replaced until a new President is installed.” We will honor that wish.
Justice Ginsburg used every ounce of life she was bestowed to urge our nation down a path toward equal justice. Doug and I send our heartfelt prayers to Jane and James, and the entire Ginsburg family, particularly on this holy day of Rosh Hashanah.
According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah we begin a period of reflection. Tonight, we reflect on the legacy of Justice Ginsburg and we honor her belief in creating a fair and just world by recommitting to fight for that justice.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is devastating.
Justice Ginsburg embodied justice, brilliance and goodness, and her passing is an incalculable loss for our democracy and for all who sacrifice and strive to build a better future for our children.
Every family in America benefited from her brilliant legacy and courage. Over the course of her quarter century as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became an icon, inspiring people around the world with her tenacity, towering intellect and devotion to the American promise of equality and opportunity for all.
Her tireless advocacy in the fight for gender equality, whether working at the ACLU, arguing cases before the Supreme Court or authoring thoughtful and historic opinions and dissents as an Associate Justice, leaves an enduring legacy of progress for all women. Her opinions have unequivocally cemented the precedent that all men and women are created equal.
We must honor Justice Ginsburg’s trailblazing career and safeguard her powerful legacy by ensuring that the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court upholds her commitment to equality, opportunity and justice for all. May it be a source of comfort to her children, Jane and James, her grandchildren Paul, Clara, Miranda and Abigail, and loved ones that so many people around the world mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer:
Tonight, we mourn the passing of a giant in American history, a champion for justice, a trailblazer for women. She would want us all to fight as hard as we can to preserve her legacy.
The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.
DNC Chair Tom Perez:
Five years ago, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked in an interview, ‘When the time comes, what would you like to be remembered for?’ She replied, ‘Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability, and to help repair tears in her society.’ Throughout her extraordinary career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg did her very best to repair the tears in our society.
She was a brilliant jurist, a fearless champion for justice, a trailblazer for countless women and girls, and a tireless advocate for the rights of those on society’s margins. With a sharp mind and even sharper wit, Justice Ginsburg changed our court and our country for the better. The Supreme Court has lost a giant today, and America has lost a hero. May her memory be a blessing, and may her family find solace in the prayers of a grateful nation.
As we mourn this tragic loss, we also recognize the gravity of Justice Ginsburg’s position. There is now a vacancy at the U.S. Supreme Court, and it should be filled with a justice who embodies the same integrity, courage, and commitment to equality that Justice Ginsburg showed on the bench and throughout her life. As was Justice Ginsburg’s final wish, the American people deserve a voice in this decision. And they will make their voices heard in November.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:
Few individuals have had such a dramatic and lasting effect on a particular area of law as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who directed the work of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project from its founding in 1972 until her appointment to the federal bench in 1980.
During the 1970s, Ginsburg led the ACLU in a host of important legal battles, many before the Supreme Court, that established the foundation for the current legal prohibitions against sex discrimination in this country and helped lay the groundwork for future women’s rights advocacy.
By 1974, the Women’s Rights Project and ACLU affiliates had participated in over three hundred sex discrimination cases; between 1969 and 1980, the ACLU participated in sixty-six percent of gender discrimination cases decided by the Supreme Court.
In 1981, President Carter appointed Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman to be a Justice on the Supreme Court.
In her honor we will be dedicating the ACLU Center for Liberty as the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Liberty Center.
She leaves a country changed because of her life’s work.
American Constitution Society President Russ Feingold:
Tonight we celebrate the life and mourn the passing of one of the most influential and inspirational lawyers and jurists in American history. She was a giant, and we shall not see her like again.
In the coming weeks there will be time to discuss how, by means of her towering intellect and unflinching courage, she blazed a path toward a better life for American women, and all Americans.
But tonight I can only express my profound sadness at her passing, and offer deepest condolences to her family and friends.
Her memory will surely be a blessing to the millions of Americans whose lives she touched.
Massachusetts’ Maura Healey and Oregon’s Ellen Rosenblum, Co-Chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer, a giant. She was a role model to women, lawyers, judges, and millions more. Justice Ginsburg’s legacy cannot be overstated and we will never give up fighting for what she devoted her life to — equality and justice for all. The days and weeks to follow will be the most consequential in our lifetimes and we must work together to follow the path Justice Ginsburg paved for us — the stakes have never been this high. We must honor her dying declaration to give her appointment to the next President. Tonight, we honor her memory. Tomorrow, we fight for her legacy.
United States Senator Patty Murray:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first Justice I voted for. Tonight, my heart is breaking for a million reasons — for her family, for our country, for my North Star. I’ll remember her as a friend, a role model, and a woman who opened doors for all the rest of us with her genius and her relentless pursuit of justice, freedom, and equality for each and every one of us, no matter who we are.
That fight for justice, which she led so passionately for so long, is now ours to take up in her memory. Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her all to us, and I will give mine to making sure the American people have their next President before her seat is filled.
United States Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a once-in-a-generation role model and champion of equal rights.
This is such an extraordinary loss for our country.
United States Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington:
Justice Ginsburg was a giant — our longest-serving female Supreme Court Justice. She will be remembered as a fierce warrior against gender discrimination. Every woman who has ever had to advocate for the law owes her a great debt of gratitude.
We have lost a real hero.
Justice Ginsburg stood by the most vulnerable in her decisions, from ending single sex admission policies and protecting rights for those with mental disabilities to her dissents standing up for voting rights and paving the way for Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens protections against pay discrimination.
My thoughts are with her family, friends, and everyone in our country who looked up to her for inspiration and comfort.
United States Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon:
I am stunned, devastated, and crushed by the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. This is an unfathomable loss for our country.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg will go down in the history books as a hero who made a profound impact on gender equality in our nation, both through her trailblazing legal advocacy and her tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. She will also be remembered as an unwavering champion for justice, especially for the rights and interests of those too often forgotten or marginalized by society.
When the Court made decisions that prioritized the interests of the privileged and powerful at the expense of others, Justice Ginsburg stood strong as the moral conscience of the Court. Her powerful words fighting against political corruption, racial injustice, and attacks on women’s health and autonomy will continue to reverberate throughout America. I have no doubt that her work will inspire many more champions for justice for decades to come.
Justice Ginsburg herself had expressed that it was her ‘most fervent wish’ not to be replaced on the Court during this presidential term. Since my Republican colleagues have also been adamant that a vacant Supreme Court seat should not be filled in a presidential election year, I look forward to the American people making their voices heard before a replacement is selected.
Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for a lifetime of service to building a better America. It is impossible to express how much we will miss you.
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts:
Ruthie was my friend, and I will miss her terribly. The t‑shirts simply labeled “RBG” made her notorious. But it was her wit, her tenaciousness, and her skill as a jurist that made her an icon.
As a young mom heading off to Rutgers law school, I saw so few examples of female lawyers or law professors.
But Ruthie blazed the trail. I’m forever grateful for her example — to me, and to millions of young women who saw her as a role model.
Later, Ruthie’s groundbreaking work as a legal advocate for women led to a distinguished career as a federal judge and a Supreme Court Justice. Her lifelong dedication to fighting for justice for everyone, and her love for our nation, will be sorely missed.
With voting already underway for the 2020 elections, Ruthie’s “most fervent wish” was for her replacement not to be named “until a new president is installed.” We must honor her wish.
Governor Jay Inslee of Washington:
We have lost one of the greatest American patriots to ever serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was so much more than a judge; she was one of America’s greatest champions for justice, in the truest sense of the word.
Trudi and I are devastated.
Justice Ginsburg leaves an enormous legacy of advancing women’s equality in American jurisprudence and upholding reproductive rights. She fought to preserve the Voting Rights Act and enshrine equality under the law for the LGBTQ community on the Court.
In a career as a litigator fighting for equal rights for women, she repeatedly overcame gender-based discrimination in the service of others facing oppression.
Justice Ginsburg was a public servant who kept America true to its purpose. She never shied away from vigorously dissenting when the Court set back the course of justice.
Her career over the decades inspired countless others to join the fight for equality. Generations of Americans, from those who fought at her side for decades to young people inspired by her guts and brilliance, will remember her as a folk hero.
I have faith that no matter what happens next, Justice Ginsburg’s legacy will have reshaped America forever.
We should all raise our voices to make sure her last wishes are met: Her seat should not be filled until 2021. I believe the voice of the American people will be heard to make sure we will honor the life, the career and the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As she once wrote, “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.”
Governor Kate Brown of Oregon:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg created a landscape and set the legal framework for women’s equality in this country — case by case, brick by brick. She was ahead of her time, a true pioneer. Her story was remarkable. Throughout her career, she faced discrimination at every turn –– for being a woman, for being Jewish, for being a mother –– yet overcame it to sit on the highest court in our country.
Along the way, her work in the legal system led to landmark structural changes that reduced gender discrimination and created more equal protections for all Americans.
Her efforts have helped create a more just and fair country – and ensured that even if she was the first one to make it through a certain door, she wouldn’t be the last.
Throughout my life and career, in the law and in government, I have walked through doors that she opened. From the time I was a young lawyer, I was inspired by her incredible intelligence, her tenacity, and her unfailing moral compass that guided her work toward creating a more perfect union, one with equal opportunities for all of us.
Fierce, persistent and filled with grit, she was our hope and our inspiration. Justice Ginsburg never, ever gave up and America is better for it. We can honor her legacy by continuing to work to dismantle all forms of inequality and discrimination, in our justice system and in our lives, with everything we have.
Dan and I send our love to her entire family as they mourn the loss of an American icon and legend.
United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York:
We have lost a giant in the history of our nation with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is heartbreaking that in her final moments she was, as are many others, preoccupied with what would happen after her passing. I want to make one thing clear: we can, and must, fight. Now is not the time for cynicism or hopelessness.
There is and continues to be political possibility to preserve our democracy and move forward.
It will require each & every one of us, from the streets to the Senate, to grow in courage, strength, and strategy. But it is possible.
United States Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington:
Tonight, our nation not only lost a historic member of the highest court in our land but a trailblazer for women everywhere. From her passionate advocacy work on behalf of women to her nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served with grace and brilliance while fighting for equality and justice.
As the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, Justice Ginsburg put her strength and unparalleled legal knowledge to work each day as an organizer who helped lay the foundation for landmark constitutional protections against sex discrimination.
Following her confirmation to the bench in 1993, she brought her fierce intellect, determination for justice, and quick-wit with her as she became only the second woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court.
As some looked out for corporations and the powerful, she lifted up families and the most vulnerable. With every case she deliberated on, she was guided by the promise of the very words carved above the Supreme Court: equal justice under law.
Her tireless work on the court protected and expanded women’s rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, civil rights, and workers’ rights. She helped make possible historic progress on LGBTQ+ equality, health care, immigration, the environment, and getting money out of politics. And she did all of this while never losing sight of what makes our nation great — our inclusivity, our sense of justice, our commitment to equality and opportunity for all.
In honor of Justice Ginsburg’s inspiring life, her powerful legacy, and her never ending pursuit for justice, let us continue her work. I am committed to continuing the critical work necessary to make our country more equal, more fair, and more just.
As one of only seventy-nine women of color to have ever served in the United States Congress, I am fully committed to continuing the legacy of this beloved “shero”: from finally ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to protecting abortion rights, workers’ rights, LGTBQ+ rights, and civil rights for all.
And I am committed to making sure women across the country and throughout the world can blaze their own trails, that they are never held back on the basis of sex — or any identity. May Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memory be a blessing. And may she rest in power.
United States Representative Adam Smith of Washington:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an exemplary beacon of justice. Her lifelong work to expand the rights of all Americans has enshrined her mark on the history of our country and will serve as an inspiration for generations to come. Her leadership and honorable service have shaped countless lives for the better, and we are a stronger, more just nation due to her jurisprudence.
No words can accurately portray the monumental impact she had on our justice system or describe her profound dedication to our nation even until her very last moments with us. We mourn the loss of her today, but we continue our fight for justice tomorrow. I extend my deepest condolences to her and her family and my sincerest gratitude to Justice Ginsberg – may she Rest in Peace.
United States Representative Denny Heck of Washington:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of the sharpest legal minds and fiercest defenders of justice this nation has ever known.
Her leadership on the court—and at the moral center of our democracy—cannot and will not be easily replaced. Justice Ginsberg’s stirring legal opinions helped advance the rights of women and countless underrepresented Americans. And when the Court strayed from the tenets of due process and equal protection under the law, her fiery dissents sounded the alarm in the soul of our nation.
Justice Ginsberg’s life story is one of grit and determination.
She strong-armed her way into the upper echelons of legal academia, and then opened the door from the inside, so that future generations of women could follow in her footsteps.
Tonight, I share in the solemn, heavy grief of our nation. But I also share in our gratitude to a visionary who boldly asserted that our laws protect us all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other category that could be used to divide us. Justice Ginsburg was a voice for the voiceless. It’s up to us to protect her legacy — and continue her fight on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.
King County Executive Dow Constantine:
For nearly three decades, America benefitted from the wisdom and moral guidance of a woman whose life of service was dedicated to making real a central ideal our nation: justice.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s era on the Supreme Court was itself historic, and her decisions — and of course, her dissents – helped affirm the equal rights of women and, indeed, of every American.
Her dedication to fighting for the rights of all did not begin with her appointment to the high court, nor will her impact on our shared history end with her passing today. Her service, her dedication to the law, and her life story is quintessentially American.
It would be the height of hypocrisy — and an immense disservice to the court, the law, and our democracy — to ignore her final wishes and allow this morally bankrupt President and Senate majority to rush through a replacement for this irreplaceable patriot before the voters chart our nation’s course just six weeks from now.
Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski:
We lost a legend tonight. Justice Ginsburg will go down in American history as one of the fiercest advocates for civil rights and equality under the law that we’ve ever been blessed to serve us in public life.
Tonight, we send our love and our sympathy to Justice Ginsburg’s family, and we grieve with them as we mourn her loss.
But tomorrow, the work of fighting to protect the rights Justice Ginsburg enshrined in decisions issued from the highest court in the land must continue. The security of so many Americans’ reproductive rights, right to marry whomever they love, and the fundamental right to be treated as equals in our society should never have rested on the shoulders of a five foot tall, eighty-seven year old giant of American jurisprudence. We must recommit ourselves to ensuring America lives up to the vision of a just society Justice Ginsburg brought to life in both the decisions she authored and the example she set for women everywhere. May she rest in peace.
Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. We honor you, we celebrate you, and we carry on remembering what you taught us. Your wisdom is timeless.