A mural of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg went up last year on U Street in Washington, D.C. It was created by artist Rose Jaffe for Flock DC. Photo credit: Sara Pearl/Twitter

Latinos across the country expressed gratitude and grief after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, died on Friday from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg, only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, was widely known as a feminist icon, with the “Notorious RBG” moniker and two films, the documentary “RBG” and biopic “On the Basis of Sex” adding to her notoriety in the last decade.

But for Latinos in the legal world and those who were impacted by the social-justice fights that Ginsburg took on, she was a civil rights hero who will have a lasting legacy, scholars, activist organizations, and lawmakers said.

“She was well aware of her place in history as one of the voices for the excluded, the oppressed, and those trying to find real justice in our courts,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Justices Sonia Sotomayor (left) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (center) with Justice Elena Kagan in the Justices’ Conference Room prior to Justice Kagan’s Investiture Ceremony on October 1, 2010. Steve Petteway, photographer for the Supreme Court of the United States.

LULAC was joined by many other Latino organizations and individuals expressing admiration for Ginsburg’s many decades of work:

  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who worked alongside Ginsburg, said in a statement, “My dear friend and colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American hero. She spent her life fighting for the equality of all people, and she was a pathbreaking champion of women’s rights. She served our Court and country with consummate dedication, tirelessness, and passion for justice… She often said that leading a meaningful life means living for one’s family and one’s community, not for oneself. Ruth lived a profoundly meaningful life, and the numerous ways in which she changed ours will never be forgotten.”
  • The Hispanic National Bar Association’s national president Irene Oria wrote, “Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer in a class of her own – a fervent defender of civil liberties and civil rights as an attorney, and a bridge builder on our nation’s highest court. She has left an indelible mark on the legal profession and on this nation’s record of gender equality and the rule of law.”
  • “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a life of courage and resilience, paving the way for generations of civil rights advocates who fight on the side of truth and equality,” wrote Latino Victory president and CEO Nathalie Rayes. “Our nation moved towards progress in gender and racial equality thanks to Justice Bader Ginsburg’s invaluable contributions.”
  • LatinoJustice PRLDEF issued a statement that read, in part, “our Latinas in all professions reaped the benefits of the doors she opened and kept open for those to follow. How fortunate we all are in the U.S. to have witnessed Justice Ginsburg in our lifetimes. Que en paz descanse.”
Candlelit makeshift memorial on the steps of the US Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020. By Ben J., Commons.

In addition to her work for women’s rights and gender equality, Ginsburg also was a strong advocate for immigrants’ rights. She voted to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act earlier this year and had a history of arguing against holding immigration detainees indefinitely or without cause. She was herself the Jewish daughter of immigrants from Russia and Austria.

Her arguments in election-related cases also help protect or reinstate voting rights for many Latinos.

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Omar L. Gallaga is a freelance journalist living in Central Texas who has written for NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Engadget, Hispanic Magazine, CNN, MSNBC, and The Washington Post. He was a longtime technology and culture writer at The Austin American-Statesman, where he helped launch the newspaper ¡ahora sí! and two podcasts.