Ginsburg discusses women’s rights

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discussed high-profile court cases at Willey Hall on Tuesday.

by Christopher Aadland

Although the U.S. Supreme Court won’t reconvene until next month, a longstanding justice offered the University of Minnesota community a glimpse into issues the high court may address in the future.

About 1,000 community members and University students, staff and faculty gathered in Willey Hall on Tuesday as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has served on the U.S. Supreme Court for more than two decades, discussed recent high-profile cases, the types of cases the court will likely hear in coming years and other hot-button topics.

After joking about her popularity on social media, Bader and University law professor Robert Stein, who led the event, discussed recent cases like the Hobby Lobby ruling in June, which said corporations could refuse to pay for contraceptives if it goes against the owner’s religious beliefs.

Ginsburg, who dissented the ruling, restated her opinion on the controversial topic and said she’s concerned it will affect the way companies comply with federal regulations.

“An employer for for-profit companies should not be able to impose their beliefs on their employees,” she said at the discussion.

While the lecture covered a variety of topics, Ginsburg paid special attention to women’s rights issues and said female law students shouldn’t shy away from voicing their opinions.

Ginsburg was the second woman in history to serve on the Supreme Court when she entered the position in 1993.

First-year law student Julia Peng said she felt Ginsburg’s message was empowering.

“I really enjoyed her enthusiasm for women’s issues,” she said. “[Ginsburg] really wants us to renew the spirit of women in the ’70s.”

Other topics, like privacy issues surrounding technology, discrimination and the environment, are poised to be highly debated subjects in the future, Ginsburg said at the event.

First-year law student Tyler Adams agreed that his generation of law students will likely encounter cases dealing with those issues when they enter the workforce.

“Environmental issues will be hard to avoid,” he said.

The discussion was part of the Law School’s annual Stein Lecture Series. Stein said he and Ginsburg have known each other for 30 years. Last year’s lecture featured former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale.

Stein said another Supreme Court justice will talk in the series next year, but said he couldn’t release the future speaker’s name.

As law students learn about the judicial system, Stein said, it’s important for them to hear a high authority like Ginsburg speak about important cases and current events.

“They’ll better understand how the court approaches issues and how effective oral argument is in making those decisions,” he said.

First-year law student Andrew Heiring said Ginsburg’s speech not only helped her learn about the court process, but it was also motivational.

“It’s exciting to get to go to events like this,” he said.