Few individuals have had such a dramatic and lasting effect on a particular area of law as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who directed the work of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project from its founding in 1972 until her appointment to the federal bench in 1980.
During the 1970s, Ginsburg led the ACLU in a host of important legal battles – many before the Supreme Court – that established the foundation for the current legal prohibitions against sex discrimination in this country and helped lay the groundwork for future women’s rights advocacy. By 1974, the Women’s Rights Project and ACLU affiliates had participated in over 300 sex discrimination cases; between 1969 and 1980, the ACLU participated in 66 percent of gender discrimination cases decided by the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg deliberately chose the ACLU as the vehicle for her legal work, rather than an organization with a narrower women’s rights agenda, in large part because she believed that the ACLU would enhance the credibility of the women’s rights cause. Ginsburg has also said that she chose the ACLU because of the integral interconnection between civil liberties and civil rights, including women’s rights. ‘I wanted to be a part of a general human rights agenda . . . [promoting] the equality of all people and the ability to be free,’ she said.
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