WASHINGTON — Mourners spanning multiple generations gathered Wednesday to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist icon who garnered a devoted following of admirers, as she was honored at the Supreme Court.
Members of the public gathered to honor the liberal justice, viewing her casket as it sat at the top of the front steps of the Supreme Court.
Many of the mourners were women and young girls. Ginsburg became a role model after she broke down gender barriers and promoted equality throughout her life.
"Thank you RBG for everything from a queer American," said a sign held up by one woman.
Some people wore masks that said "vote," encouraging people to participate in November's election. Others wore shirts that said, "Notorious RBG," with an illustration of Ginsburg in a crown, a reference to the '90s gangsta rapper the Notorious B.I.G.
Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton were in attendance. Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993.
Ginsburg died Friday at the age of 87 at her home in Washington, D.C., after complications from pancreatic cancer.
She was the second woman appointed to the high court and served for more than 27 years.
Since her death, large crowds have visited the Supreme Court to memorialize Ginsburg with photos, flowers, candles and messages thanking her for fighting for gender equality and paving the way for women and girls.
Her casket arrived at the high court just before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Ginsburg’s former law clerks served honorary pallbearers and lined the front steps as her casket arrived. Supreme Court police officers served as pallbearers, which the court announced earlier this week.
Her family, close friends and members of the court attended a private ceremony inside the court. Ginsburg’s seat and the bench in front of it have been draped with black wool crepe. A black drape has been hung over the courtroom doors, the court said.
"It has been said that Ruth wanted to be an opera virtuoso, but became a rock star instead," Chief Justice John Roberts said in his eulogy. "But she chose the law. Subjected to discrimination in law school and the job market because she was a woman, Ruth would grow to become a leading advocate fighting such discrimination in court. She was not an opera star, but she found her stage right behind me, in our courtroom. There she won famous victories that helped move our nation closer to equal justice under law, to the extent that women are now a majority in the law schools, not simply a handful."
Roberts referenced a famous photo of Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, riding atop an elephant in India.
"It captured so much of Ruth," he said. "There she was, doing something totally unexpected, just as she had in law school, where she was not only one of the few women, but a new mother to boot. And in the photograph she's riding with a dear friend, a friend with totally divergent views. There is no indication in the photo that either was poised to push the other off."
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of the Conservative Jewish synagogue Adas Israel in Washington, D.C., read aloud prayers from the Torah in Hebrew and said, "To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential, that does not give you a path for opportunity, or a clear path for education, and despite this to be able to see beyond the world you are in to imagine that something can be different, that is the job of a prophet. And it is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world, but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime. This was the brilliance and vision of justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg."
Following the ceremony, Ginsburg's casket was moved under the portico on the top of the front steps to the Supreme Court building where she will lie in repose for two days so that the public viewing can take place outdoors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ginsburg’s casket will be placed on the Lincoln Catafalque, which Congress loaned to the court for the ceremony. It was a platform built in 1865 to support the casket of President Abraham Lincoln when he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
The public will be allowed to pay their respects between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday and between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Thursday.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, will pay his respects to the late justice Thursday at the Supreme Court, deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere said.
On Friday, Ginsburg’s casket will be moved to the U.S. Capitol building for another ceremony, and she will be the first woman to ever lie in state. A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery next week, the court said.