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'We Need To Be Her Voice:' Politicians, Activists, Citizens Celebrate Ginsburg's Life And Legacy

European University Institute

Texas political leaders, activists and members of the public offered their thoughts and condolences over the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday.

"History will remember her fervent advocacy towards equality for all, and honor the path she has paved for us," wrote State Sen. José Menéndez, who represents San Antonio.

“Despite our ideological differences, I have always maintained a deep respect for Justice Ginsburg," wrote Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. "Her unwavering commitment to public service has inspired a generation of young Americans – particularly women – to reach for their dreams.”

"For decades she worked on the frontlines to secure and uphold the rights of women, workers, and those often left behind," wrote MJ Hegar, who is challenging Cornyn's reelection bid.

Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, called Ginsburg "a remarkable woman [and] a fighter of top intellect and reason. ..."

Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, said that "Justice Ginsburg was a heroine of her time. A pioneer for gender equality, an icon of groundbreaking jurisprudence, and a beloved mother and grandmother."

At a Biden-Harris caravan event on Saturday, several participants mourned Ginsburg. "Thank you, RBG," said Robert Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party. "We're gonna take this to the end, and we're gonna win this election because we understand what the consequences are."

"When I got the news last night about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I felt so devastated," said Janet Oglethorpe, a Democratic precinct chair, "and I thought I just needed to take the first opportunity that I can to get busy. Even though we won’t have her mind, even though we won’t have her voice, we need to be her voice."

Participants in the "Riding for Biden" event wore RBG pins and celebrated her legacy.

Ginsburg’s death was felt by gender equality and reproductive rights activists.

Amy Hagstrom-Miller, the CEO and president of Whole Woman’s Health, said she was grateful for Ginsburg’s support in their 2016 landmark case against a Texas law that shuttered many abortion clinics throughout the state.

"She was a huge champion for us," she said. "I’ll never forget how she argued the fine points of our Texas case, the Whole Woman’s Health case, in 2016."

Hagstrom-Miller said Whole Woman’s Health was still litigating two other cases against Texas anti-abortion policies in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that could eventually make it to the new Supreme Court.

Many of Texas’ anti-abortion groups responded online by offering their condolences and prayers to Ginsburg’s family but also pointing out her history of ruling against abortion restrictions.

Mercy Sister Rosemary Welsh, who works with immigrants in Laredo, said she was worried about the impact of Ginsburg’s vacancy on immigration.

"It’s going to make a big difference because she was one of the persons who was for immigration reform," she explained. "She was one of the people, and it’s going to swing the court."

Ginsburg, one of the four remaining liberal justices in the high court, helped declare President Donald Trump’s attempts to shut down the DACA program unconstitutional earlier this summer. Throughout her career, she also sided against policies such as the indefinite detention of unauthorized immigrants and the automatic deportation of immigrants convicted of crimes.

Jen Ramos, the state Democratic executive committeewoman for Texas Senate District 21, urged border communities to not be discouraged by the loss of one of the four remaining liberal justices and to instead reach out to friends about the upcoming election.

"We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to Justice Ginsburg, to have those conversations," she said.

A reporter broke the news of Ginsburg's death to Trump after a rally Friday night. "She led an amazing life, what else can you say?" he said, as reported by NPR. "She was an amazing woman — whether you agreed or not — she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life."

As the White House lowered its flag to half-staff to honor Ginsburg, Trump, in an official statement, added that she was a "titan of the law" who "demonstrated that one can disagree without being disagreeable toward one's colleagues or different points of view."

At the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., NPR reported that mourners gathered, cried, sang and added candles, signs and flowers to a makeshift memorial on the courthouse steps. Others celebrated her views on life and love, and even her love for opera.

In San Antonio, a vigil was planned for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bexar County Courthouse to celebrate Ginsburg's life and mourn her loss.

Texans were also closely watching whether Trump could fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Cornell Woolridge, a civic engagement consultant in Austin, said he thought that could inspire more Democrats to vote in congressional and senate races. But he remained worried about the potential appointment of a conservative justice.

"What most concerns me is the increased strain and division this move is going to have on this country," he said.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday said he would seek to approve a nomination from Trump before the November election. If that nominee was successfully approved, a conservative Supreme Court would hear arguments in Texas’ challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10.

Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett said Democrats need to fight to honor Ginsburg’s last wishes for a Supreme Court nominee to not be appointed until after the election.

"She was known for her dissents," he said. "We need to dissent strongly, and do everything we can to prevent the hypocrisy of Republicans from allowing Donald Trump to name someone."

The Austin Democratic pointed to McConnell’s refusal to approve a nominee from former President Barack Obama in 2016. McConnell at the time argued voters should be given a say through the election.

On Saturday, NPR reported that Trump was considering Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Amul Thapar for nomination to the vacant seat.

Maria Mendez can be reached at Maria@tpr.org and on Twitter at @anxious_maria. She's a corps member of Report For America.
Jolene Almendarez can be reached at JoleneAlmendarez@gmail.com and on Twitter at @jalmendarez57.

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María Méndez can be reached at maría@tpr.org or on Twitter at @anxious_maria
Jolene Almendarez can be reached at jolenealmendarez@gmail.com.