The Ginsburgs’ incredible love story
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2020 - 12:00am

The hero of the hour is the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who lies in repose at the United States Supreme Court. Within hours of her death, the steps of the courthouse turned into a “makeshift memorial” , with a display of hundreds of flowers laid by throngs of people.

An American writer, Tim Ott, tells us, in Biography on Facebook, that the justice and her husband, lawyer Marty Ginsburg, led an “incredible love story“. Only a few lucky souls, Ott writes, “know what it’s like to walk step-by-step with a life partner, each helping the other through unforeseen obstacles to achieve emotional fulfillment and professional success of the highest order together.”

Justice Ruth will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where her husband is buried. So they are together, even in death (my words).

Their story began at the Cornell University campus in 1950. They formally met on a blind date, and before long, the sophomore realized that the petite freshman beauty was “a cerebral powerhouse.” Ruth later recalled, “He was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain.”

Friends marveled at how these two seemingly contrasting spirits matched up writes Ott. Ruth came across as shy and timid, Marty was the clown, the life of the party. She was prompt, meticulous and thorough, he cut class to play golf. “But there was the undeniable bond of their joint Brooklyn-area origins, adherence to the Jewish faith and intellectual capacity to examine and impact the world around them,” writes Ott.

The two married in June 1954, after Ruth graduated from Cornell and Marty finished his first year at Harvard Law School and detoured to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Marty’s stint in the military. There they had the first of their two children, daughter Jane. For all of Ruth’s talents, she was a lousy cook. Marty took charge of that department and developed a reputation as “a culinary wunderkind.”

During his final year at Harvard Law, Marty was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, requiring grueling radiation treatments. Ruth organized his class notes and typed his final paper, all the while dealing with her own coursework and taking care of three-year-old Jane. Somehow it all came together, according to Ott, with Marty graduating on time, magna cum laude.

Marty’s illness went a long way toward forging Ruth’s place in history. He installed in her a confidence that she could shoulder a superhuman burden, the enduring prospect of a relapse meant that she had to be prepared to provide for the family. That pushed her to look for a job when few law firms were willing to hire a woman, leading to her professorship at Rutgers University, and her groundbreaking work in shattering gender discrimination laws on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meanwhile, Marty was making his own mark as a top tax lawyer and professor, and by the time Jimmy Carter nominated Ruth to the D.C. Federal Court of Appeals in 1980, it was Marty’s turn “to do the heavy lifting.” He helped secure her confirmation by enlisting the aid of influential clients, including Ross Perot, and readily left behind his life in New York, telling friends his wife “got a good job” in D.C.

In early 1993, when Supreme Court Justice Byron White revealed to Bill Clinton that he was retiring, Marty was “at it again.” It was not easy, she was buried on the President’s list of preferred candidates, but she also was not even a favorite of women’s groups because of her critical comments about Roe v. Wade. But Marty managed to weed out her opponents and countered by soliciting letters of support from an army of scholars. Clinton finally agreed to meet with Ruth in June, and within 15 minutes of their get-together, he knew he had his pick.

In a story written not by Ott, Ginsburg, a feminist icon and fierce advocate for gender equality, argued multiple landmark cases to advance rights of women in the military.

In the case of United States vs. Virginia in 1996, Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion striking down Virginia Military Institute’s traditional male-only admission policy. It was the last male-only public school in the country and it contemplated going private to avoid legal repercussions until the Defense Department threatened to pull ROTC programs from the school.

By a 7-1 ruling the court found VMI male-exclusive admissions in a state-supported military college was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Women seeking and fit for a VMI quality education cannot be offered anything less, under the state’s obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection,” Ginsburg wrote.

We’re back to Ott now: Seven years later, after seeing Ruth through a bout of pancreatic cancer, Marty’s own troubles with the dreaded disease resurfaced. He passed away on June 27, 2010, a few days after their 56th wedding anniversary.

“Ruth carried on solo, but by no means alone. In a late-career twist, she has become the closest thing the Supreme Court has to a rock star, feted with the ‘Notorious RBG’ nickname while having her workout featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and becoming the subject of memes, books and movies.”

Ott asks: “And she was supposed to be the quiet one? One can only imagine Marty, beaming with pride, laughing at the irony of it all.”

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Fresh from celebrating the 119th Founder’s Day of Silliman University, the biggest Silliman alumni chapter inducted – by Zoom – its new board and officers with Outstanding Silliman Awardee and COMELEC Commissioner Rowena “Bing” Guanzon as inducting officer.

The program, attended by chapter presidents from all over the world, featured musical numbers by saxophonist John Ray Pagalan, Andy Bais and soprano Katrina Saga. Special messages were given by selected Sillimanians including SU President Betty McCann and Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

The new board represents all the age brackets of the alumni from Baby Boomers, the Millennials to the Gen-Z with its former president, Ed Dames, returning to lead the chapter which country’s notable personalities like Secretary Leonor Briones, DFA Usec Ernie Abella, former GSIS President and General Manager Jesus Clint Aranas, Dumaguete City Mayor Ping Remollo, and Professional Regulatory Board of Nursing Chair Dr. Glenda Arquiza.

“We have been blessed with so many talents and influential members. We want to optimize these human resources not only to help our alma mater but also to make a difference in our society given all the challenges we face today,” said Dames.

“In all these things, we hope to bring glory to our university motto: ‘the Way, the Truth, the Life.’”

The new SIMM officers are Ed Dames, president; Dr. Jenny Lind Elmaco, vice president; lawyer Eric Joven, secretary; Leny Tomas, treasurer; Dawnie Maputi, auditor; Crystal Eunice dela Cruz, public relations officer; Rev. Callum Tabada, director, and Atty. Grace Sumalpong, adviser.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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