“She changed the course of American law. And even when her views did not prevail, she still fought,” Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt said.
A U.S. Capitol Police honor guard salutes as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s flag-draped casket lies in state in Statuary Hall at the Capitol, Washington, U.S., September 25, 2020
(photo credit: GREG NASH/POOL VIA REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of gender equality, made history again on Friday as the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state in the US Capitol, in a ceremony featuring tears, soaring music and even push-ups.
Ginsburg, a stalwart liberal on the high court since 1993, died last Friday at age 87. Known simply as RBG, the first Jewish woman on the court became an icon to millions of Americans – especially young girls – after a long legal career fighting for equal rights.
“She changed the course of American law. And even when her views did not prevail, she still fought,” Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt said during a ceremony attended by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife, lawmakers from both parties and relatives and friends of Ginsburg.
Denyce Graves, a mezzo-soprano, sang two songs, as some lawmakers brushed away tears.
Through her 80s, Ginsburg was known for her gym workouts. Her trainer, Bryant Johnson, did three push-ups in front of her casket as he paid his respects.
Female members of Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans, gathered on the Capitol steps to honor Ginsburg after the formal memorial ceremony in National Statuary Hall, where Ginsburg’s coffin lay on a catafalque first built for President Abraham Lincoln.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer stood at the entrance to the Capitol as Ginsburg’s flag-draped coffin arrived.
Pelosi formally opened the ceremony at a lectern beside a large photo of Ginsburg in her judicial robes and one of her signature lace collars.
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was also mourned at the Capitol in 2005, but as a private citizen she lay “in honor.”
‘BROKE SO MANY BARRIERS’
President Donald Trump’s Republicans – who narrowly control the Senate – have pledged to confirm his as-yet-unidentified conservative nominee to replace Ginsburg within the next few weeks, angering Democrats who feel he should wait until after the November 3 presidential election.
Biden, who presided over Ginsburg’s confirmation hearings as a senator in 1993, has called for Republicans to honor her last wish and not consider a nominee until after the election.
Senator Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice presidential running mate, joined other lawmakers in the ceremony honoring Ginsburg, telling reporters the late justice “absolutely” cleared a path for her. “She broke so many barriers,” Harris said.
The Republican leaders in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, did not attend the ceremony.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ginsburg’s admirers had to pay respects outdoors at her coffin for two days of public viewing under the Supreme Court’s soaring portico.
Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, was met with jeers of “Vote Him Out” by the crowd of mourners as he paid respects on Thursday.
The ceremony at the Capitol was limited to about 100 invited guests who wore masks and sat in chairs spaced far apart – because of concerns about the virus.