Ginsburg Hopes The Constitution Will Be Amended For Her Granddaughters' Sake

“Every Constitution... written since the year 1950 has the equivalent statement that men and women are people of equal citizenship."

In her six-decade career in law, including nearly 25 years on the Supreme Court now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has likely seen enough social injustice and political discord to make anyone cynical. But in her conversation with CNN's Poppy Harlow at Columbia University on Feb.11 — which covered free press, attacks on the judiciary, and the prospect of the Equal Rights Amendment — the justice seemed as idealistic as ever.

Ginsburg said a free press "is of tremendous importance to a society." She wouldn't answer Harlow's question about whether she believes those in the highest political offices think the press should be repressed, but she did say people have attacked the press "from the very beginning" but haven't always called for sanctions. Thomas Jefferson, she noted, was "terribly distressed" with the press during his time but "didn't think the press should be squelched."

Reflecting on today's climate — and careful not to name names — the 84-year-old said, "On the whole I think the press has done very well, not giving in to the criticism from some people in the political arena."

Ginsburg also emphasized our country's need for an independent judiciary, saying it's one of our nation's "hallmarks" and it's up to both members of the bar and of the public to maintain it.

Harlow then asked about Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch's comments that verbal attacks on the judiciary are "demoralizing" and "disheartening." 

"Well, they are disheartening, yes," Ginsburg responded. "But there are people, lawyers, who speak out in defense of an independent judiciary, and point out how important that is to our system."

And looking ahead, Ginsburg expressed hope for the long-proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal rights to all citizens regardless of sex.

"Equal stature of men and women is as fundamental as the basic human rights," she said. "Every Constitution in the world written since the year 1950 has the equivalent statement that men and women are people of equal citizenship stature."

Ginsburg then gestured to her granddaughters in the audience, saying, "I would like to be able to take out that pocket Constitution and say to them, 'You see, this statement of the equal stature of men and women is as fundamental as the basic human rights. The right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the equal stature of men and women.'"

Cover image via REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

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