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Combatting Sex Discrimination in the Law:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Fight for Women’s Equality in the United States

by Olivia Magnanini  Spring 2019

            The United States built its foundation on religious freedom, namely the right to worship freely whomever or whatever one chooses. However, the rights of those who practice religion have often taken precedence over those of other individuals, particularly women, and their ability to make their own decisions. Since the writing of the United States (U.S.) Constitution and the Nineteenth Amendment recognizing women’s right to vote, women have forwarded cases to the Supreme Court, yet their rights as equal citizens have been repeatedly infringed upon by the State. One case is particularly telling in this regard. The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case of 2014 represents a dangerous step forward in a legacy of sex discrimination and fundamentally undermines the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides that the rights of men and women are to be equal under the law. The case highlights, in particular, the violation of women’s rights in the context of non -profit corporations who use their religious beliefs as an exemption from providing preventative care to employees.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in Burwell has posed the compelling question as to why the rights of women are too often forsaken and, especially, in this context. 

            Over the course of her career, Justice Ginsburg has addressed sex discrimination in both her professional career as a litigator and as a pioneering female law professor. Justice Ginsburg championed arguments of equality, anti-stereotype, and anti-subordination in various litigated matters, and continued her tradition of supporting those causes while sitting on the Supreme Court.  Her work as an advocate of women’s rights and as a jurist has concentrated on women's equality under the U.S. Constitution.  In today's context, her work is specifically relevant when assessing whether women have the right to reproductive healthcare and if such a right is being compromised by religious conservatives.

Foundation for Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: Smith v. Oregon and the RFRA

            In 1990, the case Employment Division, Department of Human Services of Oregon v. Smith shocked and angered both Liberals and Conservatives when the Supreme Court ruled that generally applicable laws not aimed at specific religious practices are not in violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.[1] The plaintiffs in Smith were fired from their jobs after ingesting peyote, an illicit substance, as part of a ceremony with the Native American church. After being terminated, the plaintiffs applied for unemployment benefits from the State of Oregon. However, Oregon rejected their unemployment petitions on the basis that they were engaged in “workplace misconduct,” and the plaintiffs appealed, arguing that Oregon’s denial of benefits amounted to an infringement of their right to the free practice of religion, which in their case, required the ceremonial use of peyote.[2] The Oregon appellate court reversed the denial of benefits, ultimately agreeing with the plaintiffs’ argument. The Oregon Supreme Court later affirmed that decision, and Oregon sought review from the Supreme Court of the United States. The United States Supreme Court, after agreeing to review the matter, ultimately, reversed the Oregon Supreme Court decision, holding that the “Free Exercise Clause permits the State to prohibit sacramental peyote use, and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use.”[3] Justice Antonin Scalia, who delivered the opinion of the Court, wrote that the Native Americans were not exempt from state or federal laws prohibiting the use of the drug,  even if they did so for religious reasons. The Supreme Court wrote that using a religious exemption that is in conflict with a generally applicable law, “would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.”[4] By doing so, Justice Scalia reaffirmed the precedent that had been established in 1879 in Reynolds v. United States, which held that this type of exception, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”[5] The ruling of Smith emphasized the notion that the law serves all, and all are subject to it, not just those who feel entitled to its protection for a religious reason.

            The precedent set by Smith, angered both Liberals and Conservatives, who felt that it undermined religious protection under the First Amendment.[6] This precedent was quickly followed by the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), in 1993,  by an almost unanimous Congress, which indicated that “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.”  Congress also established the “compelling interest test” that would then serve as a rationale and form the ultimate backbone of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision.[7] This “compelling interest test” would have to demonstrate that the “burden” is placed on the person and, “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”[8] 

The rights of women against the rights of a corporation: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

            In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), allowing Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)—part of the Department of Health and Human Services—to declare which types of birth control must be covered by employer-sponsored health plans. HRSA ultimately decided that all twenty forms of contraception, including emergency contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs), were to be covered.[9] Motivated by what they saw as an attack on their religious freedoms, the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., the Greens (the founders of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.), and Conestoga Wood Specialties (a fellow family-owned company), the Hahns  (the collective owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties), each filed separation actions challenging the ACA mandate for companies to provide contraception options for their employees. In examining these matters, the lower court cited the “sincere Christian beliefs,” held by both families that assert “life begins at conception.”  Ultimately, the lower court decided “that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point."[10] When the case went to the 10th Circuit of Appeals, the court ruled that “applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA,” a judgment which the Supreme Court concurred within a 5-4 decision.

            Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court, arguing primarily that HHS’s contraceptive mandate significantly burdened the Hahn’s and the Green’s from their exercise of religion.  The Court held that “that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS regulations is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage.”[11] The Court declared that the financial penalty for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga is “surely substantial;” they would forfeit $475 million and $33 million annually, respectively, if they refused to comply with the mandate.[12] The two companies argued that the question is whether the mandate also implied a “substantial burden on the ability of the objecting parties to conduct business in accordance with their religious beliefs.”[13] In applying the “compelling interest test,” the interest of the government to ensure that women are covered by basic, preventative healthcare is enforced by the ACA contraception mandate. The Court, however, in applying this test, ruled that the HHS contraception mandate was unlawful under the RFRA, and the compelling interest was not applied with the “least restrictive means,” by substantially burdening their religious rights.

            Before reaching the Supreme Court, the 6th, 7th, and 10th circuits applied the Dictionary Act “the words ‘person’ and ‘whoever’ include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint-stock companies, as well as individuals.”[14] Alito wrote that the passage of the RFRA guarantees protection for non-profit organizations, and should extend to for-profit corporations. His rebuttal to the 3rd circuit's reasoning that “general business corporations do not, separate and apart from the actions or belief systems of their individuals (individual owners?) owners or employees, exercise religion,” is that “corporations separate from the humans who run them, would be nothing at all.”[15] Resultantly, the Court’s decision to benefit “the humans that run corporations,” represented a severe detriment to the women who work for them.

            In a scathing dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg challenged the majority opinion that corporations “can opt-out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”[16] In doing so, the Court broadly interpreted the term “person” to include corporations, a definition that is highly contentious. The question of how to define that statutory term should have been left to the legislature, whose task it is to write statutes, instead of the Court, whose task is interpreting such statutes.[17]

            Moreover, the Supreme Court’s own precedent suggested an alternative definition. As Chief Justice Marshall wrote nearly two centuries ago, a corporation is “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.”[18] Beyond the virtue of “personhood,” Ginsburg questioned if companies can qualify for the exemption. “Do for-profit corporations rank among “person[s]” who “exercise . . . religion”? [19] For-profit corporations, unlike religious organizations, “do not serve a community of believers,” and, therefore, should not qualify for the dispensation. Despite the Court’s reliance on the RFRA as its basis for the ruling, in the words of Senator Kennedy, the RFRA was meant to settle a narrow area of law, not “unsettle other areas of the law.”[20]  In crafting its ruling, many have argued that the Court ignored the fact that the Senate “voted down the so-called ‘conscience amendment,’ which would have enabled any employer or insurance provider to deny coverage based on its asserted “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”[21] By “distinguishing between different religious believers—burdening one while accommodating the other,” the Court failed to recognize both parties as equal under the law, by not “offering both of them the same accommodation.” [22] In other words, the Court’s conclusion has implicitly created a hierarchy of rights, preferring the freedom of religion over the freedom of self-choice.

            Technical interpretations of the law aside, Justice Ginsburg questioned the majority, inquiring as to why the Court treated women’s rights as subservient to those of a corporation. The Court continuously argued there was an undue burden placed on the Hahn’s and Green’s in adhering to their religion; yet failed to question or acknowledge the strain this decision imposed on the thousands of women employed by both corporations who would be negatively impacted by the lack of control over their reproductive lives. Justice Ginsburg explained that “no tradition, and no prior decision under RFRA, allows a religion-based exemption when the accommodation would be harmful to others,” particularly when the law was created to protect women in granting them access to contraception, “asserting that the ‘limitations which of necessity bound religious freedom . . . begin to operate whenever activities begin to affect or collide with liberties of others or of the public.’”[23] In the case of Conestoga, the alternative would be for women to pay for their insurance costs out of pocket and would fail to help women too poor to obtain a tax credit. [24] Justice Ginsburg asserted that “the choice of a company cannot be imposed on employees who hold other beliefs,” and in working for Hobby Lobby or Conestoga, as they are not religious institutions, “should not deprive employees of the preventive care available to workers at the shop next door, at least in the absence of directions from the Legislature or Administration to do.”[25] The majority opinion—authored and joined in only by men—omits the fact that contraception methods can be prohibitively expensive for many women and unwanted pregnancy can deprive women of the ability to work and continue to be economically independent.

            The precedent, set by Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, undermined and violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids accommodations of religion in the for-profit workplace that “impose significant burdens on identifiable and discrete 3rd parties.”[26]  With the Court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the same issue that Scalia derided in Smith will be reopened.  This decision effectively allows every employer in the U.S. to reject insurance coverage for contraception and any other medical prescription, on the grounds that it offends the employer's religion. Women’s healthcare was often ignored, prior to the Obama administration, leaving many to reject contraception as an option. In passing the ACA, Congress acknowledged that “women have unique health care needs, that include contraceptive services,” and found that women spend 68% more than men in out of pocket health costs.[27] The Court effectively shifted the significant burden to Hobby Lobby employees, by resting the case on the RFRA exemption, and because this case “would be the result of federal government action which the Establishment Clause prohibits.”[28]   

Sex discrimination under the Constitution

            The United States Constitution does not specifically state that the sexes are unequal to each other, in fact, the word “woman” is omitted from the document. Yet, there has been systemic discrimination against women under the law since its writing. Challenges to these laws have been brought under the Fourteenth Amendment, which provided for equality for the sexes under the Constitution, instead of the Nineteenth Amendment, which effectively granted women “citizenship,” by affording them the right to vote. In reality, the Nineteenth Amendment was the first legal decision made “to enfranchise women under the federal Constitution involved breaking with common law traditions that subordinated women to men in the family and intervening in domestic matters traditionally reserved to state control.” [29]

            During the 1970s, Justice Ginsburg and other feminists argued that “the state may not deprive women of control over the decision to become mothers without depriving them of equal citizenship.”[30] Instead, the Court began interpreting cases of sexual-based discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as parallel to race discrimination. [31] Yet, these claims have not been judged with the same scrutiny as race discrimination under the clause, and are often discussed as “evolving customary norms,” not a profound, systemic issue.  In setting up the comparison to race law,  sex discrimination cases during the 1970s treated women within its scope differently than it considered all men. For instance, the Court decided in Craig v. Boren that boys aged 18-21 were discriminated against  by not being allowed to buy beer with 3.2% alcohol content when girls the same age could, but that “laws that penalize pregnant employees do not discriminate on the basis of sex because they harm some but not all women.”[32] 

            In her body of casework, Ruth Bader Ginsburg rests her arguments on the anti-stereotype, anti-subordination, and equality clauses pertaining to why women are so often discriminated against, in the law, on the basis of their sex. In her anti-stereotype argument, Justice Ginsburg substantiated that women could not be excluded from the same institutions as men, including admission to elite military academies as seen in United States v. Virginia, in 1996, purely on the basis of sex. Anti-subordination, as defined as the economic burden placed on women by disallowing access to birth control and the denial of the right to abortion, “reinforces societal pressure [on women] to relinquish career aspirations for a hearth-centered existence.” [33] Ginsburg argued against this in the case Gonzalez v. Carhart, basing her dissent strongly on the precedent set by Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania v. Casey.  Equality, which forms the backbone of most of these issues, was used by the Court as the main linchpin, in the case Ledbetter v. Goodyear, wherein a woman received less compensation than her male colleagues for the same level of experience and type of work executed.  This case strongly put into question the equality of women in the workplace.

Anti-stereotype: United States v. Virginia

            In 1990, a young female high school student filed a complaint with the Attorney General seeking admission to the elite Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  VMI has traditionally been an all-male institution since its creation, in 1839. The government brought the case against the school, which the Supreme Court reviewed in 1996,  arguing that VMI's exclusively male admission policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. VMI needed to prove that  “the classification serves important governmental objectives and that the discriminatory means employed are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.” [34] VMI asserted that their policy to advance autonomy and diversity rested on the fact that they were the last “all-male” university in the United States.  This claim violated the law that schools and universities should respect faculty and students without regard to sex, race, or ethnic origin. [35] The school was not set up to exclude women, but argued that “women could not be accommodated into the rigorous training that cadets underwent as it would destroy . . . any sense of decency that still permeates the relationship between the sexes.”[36]  This sexist line of reasoning led the school, instead, to create the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL), at nearby Mary Baldwin College.  At VWIL,  women could acquire the leadership skills of a VMI education, but without the full range of opportunities that a VMI cadet would have.

            As Justice Ginsburg explains, “this was not to create a new type of educational opportunity for women, . . . nor to further diversify the Commonwealth's higher education system[,] . . . but [was] simply . . . to allow VMI to continue to exclude women in order to preserve its historic character and mission."[37] She drew on Reed v. Reed, which made unconstitutional an Idaho law that “males must be preferred to females,” in the administration of a deceased’s estate.  She ruled that a decision violates the Equal Protection Clause, when any state or federal law or “policy denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature--equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on their individual talents and capacities.” In creating the VWIL, the State failed to offer women an alternative that would sufficiently replace what they could have experienced, had they originally been admitted to VMI. Ginsburg spoke of her own struggle as a young law student at Harvard, an educational institution that began admitting female students in 1950, and at Colombia where she transferred, that began in 1925.  Sexual discrimination, based on a stereotype that women are incapable of performing the physical and mental tasks of a military cadet, significantly harms their ability to progress and develop, and fully denies them the right to an education and career that young Virginian men are not.

Equality in the workplace: Ledbetter v. Goodyear

            Discrimination continues to follow women when they leave school and enter the workplace, often facing wage inequality when compared with their male counterparts. In 1997, Lily Ledbetter brought a case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against her employer Goodyear Tire Company, on the grounds of pay discrimination. After decades of employment as an area manager at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama, Ledbetter realized that she was being compensated significantly less (15-40%) than her male colleagues performing similar work, with equal or lesser experience.  “By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest-paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.” [38] A jury found it was “more likely than not that [Goodyear] paid [Ledbetter] an unequal salary because of her sex.” [39] However, the Court of Appeals on the 11th Circuit reversed the decision, alleging her case was time-barred. The Supreme Court upheld that decision, not ruling on the more important issue of whether she faced discrimination, but rather the statute of limitations for her to sue.

            Justice Ginsburg, who authored the dissent, claimed that the Court’s indifference to the timeline of why Ms. Ledbetter chose to file when she did, was indicative of the way in which women often experience this type of employment discrimination. In Ms. Ledbetter’s case, having received a pay increase, she was “unlikely to discern, at once, that she has experienced an adverse employment decision,” because compensation statements are not often public.[40] Ledbetter compared her pay to other colleagues and realized a pattern had developed and that she was experiencing discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, proscribes an “unlawful employment practice” discrimination “against any individual with respect to his compensation … because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” but stipulates that the complainant must file directly with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days after the incident occurred.[41] The Court found that Ledbetter filed under Title VII, but should, instead, have filed under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 which would pose no time bar on her claim. Yet, the “EPA provides no relief when the pay discrimination charged is based on race, religion, national origin, age or disability,” and therefore fails to acknowledge the intersectionality of being a minority, and a woman, from gaining similar relief. Ms. Ledbetter, a white woman in her 50’s, may have experienced unequal coverage, had she applied under the EPA.

            Title VII, which clarified instances of sex discrimination in the workplace, has been accompanied by Congress’s action, prohibiting the discrimination of pregnant women from working, in 1978, and extending the benefits of Title VII to the Federal labor force.[42] Ginsburg declared that when Congress wrote Title VII, the Court misinterpreted its intention, which is that the “particular salary-setting decision is discrete from prior and subsequent decisions and must be challenged within 180 days on pain of forfeiture.”[43] She wrote, that instead “each payment of a wage or salary infected by sex-based discrimination constitutes an unlawful employment practice; prior decisions, outside the 180-day charge-filing period, are not themselves actionable, but they are relevant in determining the lawfulness of conduct within the period.”[44] This decision is more “more faithful to precedent, more in tune with the realities of the workplace, and more respectful of Title VII’s remedial purpose.”[45]

            Pay disparities for women, who are unaware that they face discrimination, are indicative of a culture that perpetuates continued behavior. Disparities indicate a pattern of a hostile workplace, which fundamentally subordinates women’s equality to that of their male peers. Goodyear benefitted by paying Ledbetter less and by discriminating against her for a denial of a promotion, hiring or transfer. If a man is selected over a woman for employment,  someone is still filling the position and earning the salary, whereas when a woman is paid less than a man in the same position, the employer reduces its costs over time from when the pay differential is first implemented.  It is clear that Ledbetter’s claim was an 18-year pattern of discrimination, rather than a dispute regarding a single paycheck.  Congress, under the Obama administration, righted the wrong by signing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  This Act disallowed time limits to bar women from seeking compensation for pay discrimination.[46]

Anti-subordination: equal access to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and unequal access in Gonzalez v. Carhartt

            Since the landmark decision in 1973 of Roe v. Wade allowed women equal access to abortions, the Supreme Court has faced various challenges to reverse the precedent. However, the Court has upheld the decision in various cases, most notably in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which reaffirmed the woman’s right to an abortion, resting on the argument that abortion matters “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”[47] The plaintiffs, in Casey, challenged five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982, including: informed consent by a doctor, spousal notice, parental consent, complying with reporting requirements, and what qualifies as a “medical emergency,” as unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.[48] Justice Sandra Day O’Connor delivered the opinion and underscored the importance of upholding Roe because “an entire generation has come of age free to assume Roe's concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions.”[49] The personal autonomy afforded to women to control their reproductive health is seminal to women’s equality in society, and the non-subordination of their sex based on biological factors. As Justice Ginsburg referenced in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the decision presented in Casey explained, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”[50] If women must obtain permission from their parents, consent or inform their spouse, or appease their doctor who may disapprove for religious reasons, they can qualify as victims of subordination.

            By proceeding with an unwanted pregnancy, women can be crippled financially, physically, and emotionally. Casey acknowledged that “the mother who carries a child to full term is subject to anxieties, to physical constraints, to pain that only she must bear. Her suffering is too intimate and personal for the State to insist, without more, upon its own vision of the woman's role, however dominant that vision has been in the course of our history and our culture.”[51] In 1992, when the Court ruled on Casey, it reinforced the opinion that the Constitution affords the protection of personal decisions relating to “marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child-rearing, and education.” [52] Echoing that precedent, the Casey Court “stated with unmistakable clarity that state regulation of access to abortion procedures, even after viability, must protect the health of the woman.”[53] By protecting and preserving a woman’s freedom of choice, the Court, simultaneously, freed her from the subornation of others. In reality, without relatively complete freedom of choice, women may continue to suffer from forced subordination by others, whether from men, their employers, or society at large.

             The case of Gonzalez v. Carhart (2007) threatened fair and equal access to abortion.  As a result, this case was the first to undermine the precedent set by Roe and upheld in Casey. In Gonzalez v. Carhart, the Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, ruling that women’s access to these specific procedures should be restricted. When the Act was signed, it was found unconstitutional by the Courts of the Northern District of California, Southern District of New York, and the District of Nebraska, on the basis that it lacked an exception for the health of the woman. Ginsburg’s dissent points to the fact that Carhart fails to take Casey seriously, because it “tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).” [54] Additionally, “it blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between pre-viability and post-viability abortions.”[55] Most importantly, it does not safeguard the exception for the health of a woman. This inevitably leads to women having to take matters into their own hands, often opting for a more dangerous alternative, such as set forth in the precedent by “Planned Parenthood of Central Mo v. Danforth, which held unconstitutional a ban on a method of abortion that forced a woman... to terminate her pregnancy by methods more dangerous to her health.”[56] Ginsburg asserted, that the “majority of highly-qualified experts on the subject believe intact dilation and extraction (D&E) to be the safest, most appropriate procedure under certain circumstances.,” and that, ultimately, it is the woman’s right to have the procedure, based on Roe.[57] The Court failed to respect the precedent and law by stating that “ethical and moral grounds justify a special prohibition,” which in so doing, threatens all other abortions. 

            When the Court hands down vague decisions regarding sexual discrimination cases, such rulings pose a threat to the rights of women.  The weakness of Roe, according to Ginsburg and other feminists, is that the case fails to clarify the right of a woman to an abortion, as a case of sex discrimination, instead relying on an argument that threatens the right to privacy.[58] By not addressing the real issue of inequality between the sexes, “because forced maternity is a sex equality deprivation,” and not experienced by men, it should be accepted that for women “legal abortion is a sex equality right.” [59] In cases of sex discrimination, treating access to contraception, pregnancy, and abortion as separate issues, ignores that all areas of women’s private and public lives are impacted by inequity. The Constitution, which is over 200 years old, fails to include the breadth or plurality often needed to assess issues of sex discrimination. To continue to interpret the law, under the Constitution, through the worldview of the founding fathers, who did not yet envision a world where their wives would be equal to them in their public lives, is shortsighted and discriminatory. In her decisions, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has shown that it is more beneficial to interpret the law through existing precedent or in the way Congress would have intended to be in the modern-day. Over time, she has dissented with her fellow justices who continue to show their narrow views in cases like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Ledbetter v. Goodyear, and Gonzales v. Carhart. Despite these setbacks, the fight for equality continues and seminal cases such as Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and United States v. Virginia, have helped to grant women the autonomy to make decisions over their own bodies and minds. In doing so, Justice Ginsburg has opened doors for many women to live their lives unsubordinated and equal to men, free from the stereotypes and requirements of their sex.


[1] Bomboy, Scott. “What is RFRA and why do we care?” Constitution Daily, June 30, 2014.

[2] Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 888 (1990).

[3]  Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 888 (1990).

[4] Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 888 (1990).

[5] Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 888 (1990).

[6] Bomboy, 1

[7] Bomboy, 1

[8] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014)

[9] “Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines,” Health Resources and Services Administration. September 2018.

[10] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[11] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[12] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[13] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[14] Barnet, Emily J. Hobby Lobby and the Dictionary Act, 124 YaleL.J. F. 11 (2014),

[15] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[16] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[17] Barnet, 1

[18] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[19] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[20] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[21] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[22] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[23] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[24] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[25] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[26] Gedicks, Frederick Mark and Koppelman, Andrew. Invisible Women: Why an Exemption for Hobby Lobby Would Violate the Establishment Clause. 67 Vanderbilt Law Review En Banc 51 (2014); 52

[27] Gedicks, Koppelman, 58

[28] Gedicks, Koppelman, 62

[29]  Siegel, Reva B., "She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family" (2002). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 1106.; 1045.

[30] Siegel, Reva B., "Equality and Choice: Sex Equality Perspectives on Reproductive Rights in the Work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Colombia Journal of Gender and the Law; New York Vol.25, Iss.1, (2013): 63-80; 63

[31] Siegel, Reva B., "She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family" (2002). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 1106.; 954

[32] Siegel, 958

[33] Siegel, Reva B., "Equality and Choice: Sex Equality Perspectives on Reproductive Rights in the Work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Colombia Journal of Gender and the Law; New York Vol.25, Iss.1, (2013): 63-80; 65

[34] United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996)

[35] United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996)

[36] United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996)

[37] United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996)

[38] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[39] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[40] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[41] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[42] MacKinnon, Catherine A. Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA (2005). 104-105

[43] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[44] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[45] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[46] O Connor, Clare. ”Equal Pay Icon Lilly Ledbetter: How To Make Sure You're Getting A Fair Wage,” Forbes June 20, 2016.

[47] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[48] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[49] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[50] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).

[51] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[52] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[53] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[54] Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007).

[55] Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007).   

[56] Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007).

[57] Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007).

[58] MacKinnon, 7

[59] MacKinnon, 146



[1] Barnet, Emily J. “Hobby Lobby and the Dictionary Act,” 124 YaleL.J. F. 11 (2014),      


[2] Bomboy, Scott. “What is RFRA and why do we care?” Constitution Daily, June 30, 2014.       


[3] Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 573: U.S. 13-354: (2014)

[4] Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007)

[5] Gedicks, Frederick Mark; Koppelman, Andrew. “Invisible Women: Why an Exemption for Hobby

                       Lobby Would Violate the Establishment Clause” Vanderbilt Law Review Vol 67.

[6] Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).

[7] Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

[8] MacKinnon, Catherine A. Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws. The Belknap Press of Harvard University

                      Press, Cambridge MA (2005).

[9] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

[10] O Connor, Clare. “Equal Pay Icon Lilly Ledbetter: How To Make Sure You're Getting A Fair

                    Wage,” Forbes June 20, 2016.


[11] Siegel, Reva B., "She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the

                     Family" (2002). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper


[12] Siegel, Reva B., “Equality and Choice: Sex Equality Perspectives on Reproductive Rights in the

                   Work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Columbia Journal of Gender and the Law; New YorkVol. 25,

                    Iss. 1,  (2013): 63-80.

[13] United States v. Virginia et al. 518 U.S. 515 (1996).

[14] “Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines,” Health Resources and Services Administration.

                    September 2018.






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