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Local leaders, activists react to passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Posted at 8:42 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 23:29:08-04

With news of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Greater Cincinnati leaders and activists paid tribute to the longtime justice Friday evening.

Jim Obergefell, the Cincinnati native and plaintiff in the groundbreaking Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, told WCPO he was "devastated" to learn of Ginsburg's passing.

"She has been a strong, consistent voice of equality and fairness on our nation’s highest court, and our nation is a better place thanks to her selfless service. I’m terrified of what her death could mean for the Supreme Court and our civil rights for decades to come," he said.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley remarked on Twitter that Ginsburg, "small in stature, but giant in impact," lived as a champion for equality.

"Born just 13 years after suffrage, she moved us closer to our ideals. Will we do the same? Rest In Peace RBG, but be restless America!" Cranley wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, said Friday that President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy Ginsburg leaves will receive a vote on the Senate floor. Reportedly on the president's shortlist are two Cincinnati-based judges serving on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: Judge Amul Thapar and Judge Raymond Kethledge. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is also reportedly on the shortlist.

McConnell's Friday statement ran contrary to his 2016 op-ed for WCPO after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in which the senator wrote that "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next justice," adding that "the Senate should not consider any nominee until after the election, when the people have spoken, and we have a new president."

In his Friday statement, McConnell said the Senate and the country mourn the "conclusion of her extraordinary American life."

"She climbed from a modest Brooklyn upbringing to a seat on our nation’s highest court and into the pages of American history. Justice Ginsburg was thoroughly dedicated to the legal profession and to her 27 years of service on the Supreme Court. Her intelligence and determination earned her respect and admiration throughout the legal world, and indeed throughout the entire nation, which now grieves alongside her family, friends, and colleagues," McConnell said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine extended condolences to Ginsburg's family Friday evening.

"Her work ethic, her devotion to the court, her own fight to break down barriers, her long friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia even though they were opposites philosophically, and her courageous fight against cancer stand as examples to all of us. She served with a strength and dignity that inspires us all. May her memory be a blessing," he said.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor too mourned Ginsburg, remarking on her "considerable talents to fight for equal protection under the law for all."

"America has lost a jurist with a conscience, true consistent convictions, civility, a sense of humor and a love of the law. America has lost a lodestar. I, along with so many who admired and respected RBG, am truly devastated by her passing. May she rest in peace," O'Connor said in a statement Friday.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Cincinnati said he was saddened to learn of Ginsburg's passing on Friday.

“She was a brilliant lawyer and a pioneer in the legal profession as only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She was respected by all who knew her and admired by so many as a trail blazer and a champion for equal rights. Her personal friendship and respect for colleagues across the ideological spectrum, including conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, serves as an example for all of us," Portman said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland said Ginsburg "shattered glass ceilings for women who haven’t yet been born, and brought our country closer to living up to our founding ideal."

“Her intellect and passion and commitment to justice were simply unmatched," Brown said in a statement. “I pray that the same force of principles to which she held herself will help guide the leaders of this country. The American people deserve a voice in the momentous decision we now face and it was her dying wish, according to her family, that we wait for their choice to lead us to take office in January to confirm a new justice. We honor Justice Ginsburg best by fighting as hard as we can to preserve her legacy and ensure that women are in all places where decisions are being made.”

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld took to Twitter Friday evening to thank the late justice "for a lifetime of transformative service."

"Rest in Peace - and please continue to look over our country from Heaven; we still need you!" he wrote.

Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou remembered Ginsburg and her long personal friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, despite their ideological differences.

"Her service is to be commended. While we differed with her, she broke many barriers. RIP RBG," Triantifilou wrote.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters offered prayers to Ginsburg's family Friday night.

"Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer for many women lawyers. Her example greatly influenced many women to pursue a career in law. And, the result has been wonderful for the profession," he said in a statement to WCPO late Friday.

Fanon Rucker, retired judge and candidate for Hamilton County prosecutor, lauded Ginsburg for a career devoted to the cause of equality.

“As a young lawyer, she fought to make the workplace equal for women fighting for a seat at the table. As a justice, she sought to defend and protect those that needed a hand to protect them and lift them up. She is an inspiration for America and the cause of justice. Let us march on. Let us continue to blaze the path she left for us. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this time and to all those who seek to achieve equality and justice for humanity," Rucker said in a statement Friday.

Ginsburg, just the second woman to serve on the nation's highest court, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Prior, she served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Ginsburg had been in and out of the hospital for the last several months as she battled metastatic pancreas cancer. She was 87.

WCPO will update this story.