U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been making the media rounds and the Internet is eating it up. After telling Yahoo News the five men on the Court have a “blind spot” when it comes to discrimination against women, she turned around and told the Associated Press they’ll just have to live and learn.
The five conservative justices recently ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that closely held for-profit companies may refuse to cover women’s contraceptives for religious reasons. Ginsburg was joined by the two other women on the Court as well as liberal Justice Stephen Breyer in a dissenting opinion, which held that leaving it to companies to decide what sorts of health coverage a woman may use amounted to a form of discrimination.
Asked about the decision by the AP on Thursday, Ginsburg suggested the five male justices simply didn’t know better. “I have no doubt that if the Court had been composed of nine women the result would have been different in Hobby Lobby,” she said. But, she added, she hasn’t entirely lost hope for the men in the Court’s majority opinion: “As long as one lives, one can learn.”
The 81-year-old justice, who’s faced speculation about whether she’ll retire, appears to be suggesting she may have a thing or two on her younger counterparts. Asked Thursday by Yahoo News whether she might retire in time for President Obama to appoint a like-minded successor, she responded that she’s not going anywhere. “My answer is, I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam.”
She also took on the age critics again in her interview with the AP: “So who do you think could be nominated now that would get through the Senate that you would rather see on the Court than me?” Ginsburg was first nominated by President Clinton and has served on the high court since 1993. “Right now,” she added, “I don’t see any sign that I’m less able to do the job.”
Ginsburg went on to discuss the Court’s ruling on gay marriage, saying the Court won’t “duck” a decision there again.
Ginsburg has been wary in the past about being too far ahead of the country on major social issues. But Americans’ opinions on gay marriage have changed dramatically in recent years. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
“I think the Court will not do what they did in the old days when they continually ducked the issue of miscegenation,” Ginsburg said in reference to bans on interracial marriage, which were not struck down by the Supreme Court until 1967. “If a case is properly before the Court, they will take it.”
Ginsburg was in the majority opinion that struck down part of the antigay Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013. She also ruled in the majority that declined to rule on California’s Prop 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. (Since then, same-sex unions have resumed in California.)
After appeals courts in Denver and Richmond, Va., upheld lower-court rulings striking down state constitutional bans on gay marriage, the issue may be headed back to the Supreme Court in the coming months.
Wherever her colleagues stand on the issue, Ginsburg intends to be a vigorous voice in that debate. “All I can say is that I am still here,” she told Yahoo News, “and likely to remain for a while.”