As Roberts spoke, Justice Antonin Scalia, a close friend of the Ginsburgs, wiped tears from his eyes.
Just down the bench, Justice Ginsburg sat stoic.
She had a decision to deliver that day. The sworn oath that she had taken to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me” would not be interrupted by her husband’s death, even if it had taken place only hours earlier.
Ginsburg’s decision to appear in court that day was fueled by her fierce dedication to her historic legal career. And it’s what her husband would have wanted her to do, she later said.
In many ways, they were misfits when they met at Cornell University in the early 1950s. He was tall. She was short. He came from money. She came from almost nothing. He was the life of any party. She was quiet and reserved.
Their love affair was really a mind-meld. They were both brilliant. Marty, she later said, was “the only young man I dated who cared that I had a brain.” Early in their marriage, as they worked and raised two children, Marty and Ruth agreed to never get in the way of each other’s careers.
“He was an extraordinary suitor, a man ahead of his time,” historian Jane Sherron De Hart wrote in “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life.” “Neither of them thought about social conventions concerning women’s roles.”
When Ruth rose through the federal courts to become a potential Supreme Court candidate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Marty, then a tax law professor at Georgetown University, worked behind the scenes to push her nomination in Washington’s circles of power.
“Marty’s effort to smooth the way for his wife’s advancement was characteristic of the couple and their relationship,” De Hart wrote. “No other campaign for a seat on the Court had been spearheaded by a male spouse.”
When President Bill Clinton nominated her to replace Justice Byron White in 1993, Ruth closed her remarks in the White House Rose Garden by turning to her husband.
“Most closely,” she said, “I have been aided by my life’s partner, Martin D. Ginsburg, who has been, since our teenage years, my best friend and biggest booster.”
And the day after he died, Ruth did what she knew Marty wanted her to do. She went back to the Supreme Court.
Ginsburg had written the majority opinion in Christian Legal Society Chapter v. Martinez, which held that an organization at a public school could not forbid gay students from joining.
“Ginsburg's voice,” longtime Supreme Court reporter Joan Biskupic wrote in USA Today, “was steady as usual and betrayed no hint of all that she had been through in recent days as her husband lost his battle with cancer.”
Marty was buried a few days later in Arlington National Cemetery, where Ruth will join him in the coming days.
His tombstone reads, “Caring citizen, advocate, teacher, and family man.”
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