Anti-discrimination groups across the country are mourning the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who stood up for diverse civil rights, and women’s rights in particular, during her 27 years as a Supreme Court justice.
Ginsburg, who died Friday at age 87, was remembered over the weekend by a broad spectrum of politicians and left-leaning advocacy groups for her staunch defense of social justice issues while serving on the nation’s highest court since 1993. Among her opinions was a scathing 2018 dissent of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. from mostly Muslim-majority countries.
In opposing the 5-4 decision allowing the travel ban to continue, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ginsburg issued a brutal critique of the ruling and took it a step further, calling out Trump’s history of Islamophobia. They accused the justices voting in the majority of “turning a blind eye.”
Ginsburg and Sotomayor argued, in particular, that the ban should be viewed in the context of Trump’s 2016 campaign remarks, when he called for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S.
The travel ban was “motivated by anti-Muslim animus,” the women wrote, adding that “the words of the President and his advisers create the strong perception that the Proclamation is contaminated by impermissible discriminatory animus against Islam and its followers.”
“So much of what I do as a civil rights advocate, an attorney, a woman, a Muslim, and as an American is possible because of what she accomplished.”
Advocates for American Muslims said the joint dissent and subsequent remarks were important messages amid the struggle against the ban. Trump signed his first executive order for a travel ban in 2017 to target citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). The ban was revised, challenged and expanded several times, and when it came before the Supreme Court, the roster had evolved to include two nations that were not Muslim-majority (North Korea and Venezuela were added to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen). Six more countries have since been added: Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania.
In July, the Democratic-led House passed the “No Ban” bill to immediately terminate Trump’s travel restrictions. (The bill is unlikely to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate.) Opponents of the ban say their ultimate hope of overturning the executive orders rests with a new presidency. Still, many expressed gratitude for Ginsburg’s commitment to record the ban’s discriminatory intent and emphasize the consequences Muslims continue to face.
“The powerful dissent that Justice Ginsburg issued when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Muslim Ban will forever be a part of her legacy. Alongside Justice Sotomayor, she called out the blatant anti-Muslim discrimination at the root of the Ban with force and clarity, and their words are fuel that keeps us going in our fight to repeal the Ban,” said Subha Varadarajan, a legal and outreach fellow with the No Muslim Ban Ever Campaign, a coalition of civil rights organizations dedicated to overturning the travel and immigration restrictions.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who introduced the No Ban bill in the House, pointed out that Trump’s claims of national security in signing the order “have been used to disguise blatant prejudice.”
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a master at removing that disguise and uncovering the truth: that prejudice and discrimination have driven many of our country’s policies,” Chu said. “Her opposition to Trump’s Muslim Ban was a perfect example. When the Supreme Court considered President Trump’s ban, Justice Ginsburg knew enough to take the President’s history of Islamophobia at face value.”
Chu added: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her career fighting against injustice and inequality, and we are all better off for it. I hope her legacy serves as an inspiration for future champions to never let discrimination be treated as normal.”
The dissent echoed the sentiments of Muslim activists who found validation in Ginsburg’s remarks on a national stage.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon, a trailblazer and a tireless defender of our nation’s promise of freedom, justice, and equality for all — truly all. So much of what I do as a civil rights advocate, an attorney, a woman, a Muslim, and as an American is possible because of what she accomplished,” Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement.
As the fight to fill Ginsburg’s seat builds between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, opponents of the discriminatory travel ban are anxiously watching. They say a Trump-appointed replacement for Ginsburg on the Supreme Court could undo the important work laid out by those who are trying to remove the travel bans.
“President Trump’s heinous Muslim Ban, his all-out assault on immigrants and communities of color, and his naked disrespect for the rule of law have already harmed us in so many ways,” Khera said.
“A third Trump justice, jammed through the Senate right before an election in which millions of Americans have already started voting, would be a body blow to the legacy of civil rights and social justice that Justice Ginsburg fought so hard to protect and strengthen and would gravely damage what remains of our democracy.”