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Ginsburg: Male justices have 'blind spot' for women's issues

By JC Sevcik   |   July 31, 2014 at 5:24 PM

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WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- In an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg held forth about having it all, her relationship with her late husband, how she feels about retirement, her Notorious RBG nickname and internet fame, women's reproductive rights, and her legacy of opposing gender discrimination, saying male justices have a "blind spot" when it comes to women's issues.

"Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?" Couric asked Ginsburg.

"I would have to say no," Ginsburg replied.

"But justices continue to think and can change," Ginsburg added optimistically. "I am ever hopeful that if the Court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow."

She went on to express her hope that the women in the male justices' lives might help with that, noting they all "have wives. They have daughters. By the way, I think daughters can change the perception of their fathers."

Of the recent and controversial Hobby Lobby ruling, which afforded closely held corporations religious exemption from the Affordable Healthcare Act's contraception mandate and to which the justice composed a scathing 35-page dissent, Ginsburg said:

"Contraceptive protection is something that every woman must have access to, to control her own destiny. I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners. On the other hand, they have no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them, who don't share that belief. I had never seen the free exercise of religion clause interpreted in such a way."

The two women went on to discuss how Roe v. Wade turned a state's rights issue into a federal issue, giving "the Right to Life people a single target to move at -- a very effective target. Nine unelected judges making the decision that they argued should be made by state legislatures," according to Ginsburg, who shared why the dissenting opinions of Supreme Court Justices are so important.

"We have a great tradition in our country: Justices who disagree with the court's opinion explaining why they disagree. Many of those dissents are now unquestionably the law of the land," Ginsburg said, citing the dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, an 1896 ruling upholding segregation.

On her dissent being set to music, her Notorious RBG nickname and the Tumblr dedicated to memes in her honor:

"I think she has created a wonderful thing with Notorious R.B.G. I will admit I had to be told by my law clerks, what's this Notorious, and they explained that to me, but the Web site is something I enjoy, all of my family do," she told Couric of notoriousrbg.tumblr.com.

On whether women can really have it all, Ginsburg told Couric, "Who -- man or woman -- has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough. And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it."

Ginsburg had that partner, and offered Couric a small glimpse of what made her relationship with her late husband so special.

"I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his," she told Couric. "And I think that made all the difference for me, and Marty was an unusual man. In fact, he was the first boy I knew who cared that I had a brain."

Couric also asked Ginsburg how she feels about her legacy.

"In my life, what I find most satisfying is that I was part of a movement that made life better, not just for women -- I think gender discrimination is bad for everyone. It's bad for men, it's bad for children. Having the opportunity to be part of that change is tremendously satisfying. I think of how the constitution begins -- 'We the people of the United States, in order to form a perfect union.' But we're still striving for that more perfect union. And one of the perfections is for 'we the people' to include an ever enlarged group."

Because of her age - -she is now 81 - -much has been made of Ginsburg stepping down while a Democrat is in the White House. If Ginsburg vacates her post while a Republican is in office, the resulting appointment could change the balance of power in SCOTUS toward a more conservative majority.

"I will do this job, as long as I can do it full steam," Ginsburg said. "When I feel myself slipping, when I can no longer think as sharply, or write as quickly, that will be the time for me to leave the court."

Follow @JCSevcik and @UPI on Twitter.
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