Community pays tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Throughout the weekend, mourners stopped by a small tribute place around the flagpole in front of the Routt County Courthouse to pay their respects to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.
In place of a large gathering with candles — neither which are advisable in the time of a pandemic and skies filled with smoke due to wildfires — the vigil gave each visitor a personal moment to reflect on what the late judge meant in their own lives.
Steamboat Springs resident Suzy Sayle stopped by on Sunday “because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was such a wonderful woman, and I’m so grateful for her and all she’s done. And I will always be grateful.”
Sayle listed Ginsburg’s fight for civil rights, voting rights and reproductive rights among the things for which she was most grateful.
“Justice Ginsburg was such an important figure in equality and justice in this country,” said Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton.
Upon hearing the news of Ginsburg death at age 87 due to metastatic pancreatic cancer, Sayle said she was overwhelmed with sadness.
And the long weekend of remembrance, while not social, “brings us together in a symbolic way,” Melton said.
Placing a handwritten sign simply saying “Thank you,” Steamboat resident Chelsie Holmes said she was feeling “pretty sad and worried and scared. And grateful for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy and all she’s done for me as a woman.”
The vigil was organized by the Women’s March of Steamboat group, of which Melton is a member. “We know people are sad,” she said. “And grieving at the loss of such an amazing woman. And we felt inspired to do something.”
Melton left flowers and a photograph of Ginsburg.
Women of multiple generations, Melton said, “wouldn’t be able to have credit cards or mortgages without her. She’s done so much for even just basic equality that feels so obvious now to us. She fought for those things. She really believed that we should all work for the things we care about and that democracy requires active participation. And I’ve taken inspiration from that. I hope all of us would — regardless of political beliefs.”
Before being appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg began her work dismantling gender discrimination as a litigator, strategically setting precedents that would pave the way to further expand rights and protections.
She won cases giving men equal protection as well — including awarding a man benefits after his wife died in childbirth, so he could stay home to care for the baby, and military benefits for husbands of wives who served in the military.
In those series of cases in the 1970s, Ginsburg’s legal victories changed laws that discriminated against women in areas of family, tax and financial law — at a time when many banks would not issue women credit cards and mortgages.
Delivering a single white lily, Steamboat resident Lynne Miller said she stopped by to honor Ginsburg for everything she did for women’s rights. “She stood up for us — and we need that right now,” she said.
Miller said it was important to pay tribute, especially right now, and she was glad for the opportunity. “She was someone who stuck up for women and wanted to make a change — and did it in a way that was acceptable,” she said.
Miller noted Ginsburg’s careful tactics didn’t threaten men — “They admired her,” she added.
In an obituary in The Guardian, Moira Donegan wrote, “Her tactics were savvy; she framed gender discrimination in ways that made the practice seem unreasonable even to hardened misogynists.”
When Ginsburg paid tribute to her mother during the announcement of her Supreme Court nomination, she said, “I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve, and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”
At just 5 foot, 1 inch tall and 100 pounds, Ginsburg was known for her tiny stature, toughness, impeccable fashion and powerful dissents.
“Every time I see that tiny woman standing up for things she believed were important — and equality and justice — I take a lot of inspiration from that,” Melton said.
Ginsburg worked to protect people Sayle said, calling Ginsburg “very empathetic and morally correct.”
To the paper sign she left in tribute, Holmes attached her nametag from when she worked at Planned Parenthood
She said Ginsburg’s fight to protect reproductive rights — and for women to work and have a child — were her biggest sources of inspiration. Women being able to “decide when they want to have children is a fragile right now in this country sometimes,” Holmes said. “I felt secure knowing she was on the bench.”
Ginsburg was unequivocal on reproductive rights. In response to a question from then Colorado Sen. Hank Brown during her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ginsburg said, “This is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It’s a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
Ginsburg was confirmed by a vote of 93 to 6.
Holmes said she wished Ginsburg could have held on a couple more months. “But she’s worked tirelessly her whole life and fought cancer so many times. I’m sure if she could have held on longer she would have,” she added.
A number of signs on the tribute reminded visitors to use Ginsburg’s legacy as a reminder to fight for what they think is right — and vote.
“I think we all have to recognize that democracy only works when we participate,” Melton said.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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The Routt County Democratic Party and the area’s democratic candidates are used to spending annual fundraisers inside the Steamboat Springs Community Center for a lively night of speeches, applause and socializing.