RICHMOND, Va. -- As Americans across the nation mourn the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a large group gathered outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Richmond Sunday evening to honor and call for others to continue her legacy.
"We were not prepared to lose our champion," ACLU of Virginia’s Claire Gastanaga said about the Supreme Court justice who broke social barriers and became a tireless advocate for justice.
"As Thurgood Marshall was the leading legal mind of the Civil Rights Movement, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the leading legal mind of the Women's Right Movement," Gastanaga said.
Ginsburg, who died Friday from complications of pancreatic cancer, was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
Ginsburg was a leading voice in cases involving discrimination on the basis of sex.
She delivered progressive votes on the most divisive social issues of the day, including giving women the right to attend Virginia Military Institute.
"I've come to realize that when you've had your rights decided in case after case by the Supreme Court, you hold a special reverence for those who hold the line,” Lindsay Church with Minority Veterans of America said. “For 27 years, RBG held the line. Her life's work was to protect the most vulnerable Americans among us. Now it's up to us to hold the line in her honor."
Other leaders, including members of Congress and the General Assembly, attended Sunday night's vigil.
It was a night for mourning loss, but also embracing the future in hopes others will lead with compassion like Ginsburg did.
"Open your hand and open your heart to people who you couldn't disagree with more and I promise, you will change the world, just as our great hero Justice Ginsburg did,” Rabbi Patrick Beaulier with Congregation Kehillah said.
Ginsburg's impact on women spanned age groups, backgrounds
Recent pop culture popularity aside, the impact that Justice Ginsburg had on women was profound, and spanned age groups and backgrounds.
As a litigator who fought tenaciously for the courts to recognize equal rights for women, one case at a time, and later as the second woman to sit on the hallowed bench of the Supreme Court, Ginsburg left a legacy of achievement in gender equality that had many women grasping for words this weekend to describe her significance to them.
“For the first time I felt the Constitution was written for me,” said feminist leader Gloria Steinem.
Family, work and opera filled Ginsburg's final summer
Ginsburg was seeing family. She was exercising. She was listening to opera. She was doing the work of the Supreme Court. She even officiated at a wedding.
That’s how the Supreme Court justice spent the summer before her death Friday at 87.
Those who had been in touch with Ginsburg or her staff recently said she seemed to be coping with treatment for cancer and also making plans for events months away.
So the announcement of her death came as something of a surprise, even to some close friends.
Ginsburg biographer Mary Hartnett saw her in mid-August and said despite a cancer recurrence Ginsburg was “plowing ahead.”