Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg welcomes the Supreme Court's recent embrace of gay rights, telling a law school last week that in the past few years, the high court has used lofty language about the bedrock values of "liberty and equality" and "equal dignity" when it comes to same-sex marriage, relationship, and family issues. But, The New York Times notes, Ginsburg is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court's recent history with gender issues, including equal pay, abortion and contraception, and medical and family leave.
The high court, and especially its current all-male five-justice conservative majority, has never fully embraced "the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be," Ginsburg told an audience at Duke University School of Law. The conservative wing has especially "ventured into a minefield" with its Hobby Lobby decision, she said, positing, "What of the employer whose religious faith teaches that it's sinful to employ a single woman without her father's consent or a married woman without her husband's consent?"
There are several legal scholars who have come to similar conclusions about the split between the court's divergent paths on gay rights and women's rights, says Adam Liptak at The New York Times, before hazarding an explanation:
Many forces are contributing to this divide, but the most powerful is the role of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court's swing vote. Legal scholars say his jurisprudence is marked by both libertarian and paternalistic impulses, ones that have bolstered gay rights and dealt setbacks to women's groups....
Justice Kennedy is the product of a placid middle-class existence in which most women stayed within traditional roles. Some of his judicial writing, Justice Ginsburg once wrote in dissent, reflected "ancient notions about women's place in the family." But Justice Kennedy, 78, has long had gay friends, and his legal philosophy is characterized by an expansive commitment to individual liberty. [The New York Times]
For more about Ginsburg's thoughts, and Kennedy's, read the entire analysis at The New York Times.