East End residents joined Americans from across the country who assembled at courthouses Saturday night in remembrance of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As evening fell, a candlelight vigil was held on the steps of the Suffolk County Supreme Court building on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead, where many paid tribute to a woman they described as a hero and icon.
“As I was growing up, I always believed that I could have whatever job I wanted to have … and I was not going to be held up because I was a woman,” said former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, a Democratic candidate for state Assembly. “And that’s because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Candles lit up the steps and columns during a somber moment of silence for Justice Ginsburg, who died Friday of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87 years old.
Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, Justice Ginsburg is remembered as a fierce champion of gender equality.
Her death is also sparking momentum among voters just weeks ahead of the presidential election.
Congressional candidate Nancy Goroff, also a Democrat, heard the news as she settled into a Rosh Hashanah dinner with family Friday and said the announcement shifted the tone.
“We were in complete shock,” she said. “And now we know what we have to do to carry on and protect those rights she fought so hard to protect. This election really matters more than any in my lifetime.”
One woman appealed directly to the youngest among the several dozen mourners who gathered at the courthouse, recalling the fight for women’s equality championed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I remember before we got these rights,” the woman said. “You don’t want to lose them.”
Though many touched on the grief, anger, sadness and sense of doom that has characterized most of 2020 to date, one message was clear: resilience.
“It gives me great hope to see this wonderful turnout on the court steps in our town,” said Riverhead Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent. “[Ruth Bader Ginsburg] fought for us until the bitter end and we will carry on.”
Southold Town Democratic Committee Chair Kathryn Casey-Quigley said she’s inspired by the hope her nine-year-old daughter has, despite bursting into tears together when they heard the news.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was her hero,” Ms. Casey-Quigley said Saturday. “I’m trying to remember that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and the core of her work was about caring for other people. The dignity of people who work; The humanity of people who need healthcare; the rights for others to marry and love whomever they choose. In a time that’s very daunting and scary I think we can redouble ourselves to her effort not only to her dying wish but to her life’s work.”
Days before her death, the justice reportedly told her granddaughter that her “most fervent” wish is that she not be replaced until after November’s election.
A battle is already brewing in Washington as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated the Republican-led Senate would vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee after declining to do the same for President Barack Obama four years ago.
The nomination could ultimately be decided by a thin margin of four senators who give Republicans the majority. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, has already said she would not support a vote prior to the election, though she noted that Mr. Trump has the authority to make a nomination.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3,” Ms. Collins said in a statement on her Twitter page Saturday.