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This Black Queer Legal Pioneer Helped Launch Ruth Bader Ginsburg onto the Supreme Court

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg has emerged as just about everyone’s favorite badass on the Supreme Court. But the notorious RBG stands on the shoulders of civil rights and gender equality champion Pauli Murray.

In a 2015 interview, Ginsburg reflected on one of her key legal accomplishments, the 1971 case Reed vs. Reed. The Supreme Court accepted Ginsburg’s argument in the case that the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment protected against discrimination based on sex.

But the groundwork for Ginsburg’s argument came from Murray.

Murray, a Howard University-trained lawyer, started arguing in the 1960s that the equal protection clause should apply to cases of sex discrimination just as it did to cases of racial discrimination. Murray’s 'reasoning from race' used racial analogies to underscore women’s subordinate status, and may even have been a forerunner of today’s language of intersections between categories like race and gender.

Ginsburg named Murray as one of the coauthors of her brief in Reed, even though Murray had no hand in writing it because Murray was a pioneer in crafting legal arguments for fighting sex discrimination."


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