During the first session of the 117th Congress, the House of Representatives proposed a bill to place a statue of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) on Capitol Hill. The bill, entitled H.R.1455, would require Congress to permanently place the statue or bust in National Statuary Hall within two years of the bill’s passing.
Dr. Linda Wharton, Professor of Political Science, is a lifelong advocate of the work of Justice Ginsburg. Dr. Wharton called Justice Ginsburg “so deserving” of this tribute, recalling Ginsburg’s influence on women’s rights as a lawyer, judge, and justice. Justice Ginsburg is most well-known for her famous opinion on U.S. v. Virginia (1996) which struck down the admissions policy of the Virginia Military Institute which previously excluded women from attending the public institution.
Dr. Wharton emphasized the importance of honoring more historical women. “Putting RBG aside, there’s just a dearth of monuments dedicated to women and people of color,” she stated. “Monuments are important because they are an indication of who we revere as our heroes in a society. So, if you have a society that does not reflect the presence of women and people of color, it sends a very strong message to little girls and people of color.” National Statuary Hall currently features 100 statues of historical figures, two selected to honor each state. Of those 100 statues, only nine depict a female figure.
New York City has been at the forefront of the effort to increase women depicted and honored in statues across the country. New York artists Gillie and Marc Schattner of Statues for Equality recently helped the city create 11 statues honoring women, including a seven-foot-tall statue of Justince Ginsburg in her birth place, Brooklyn, NY.
The bill was introduced on March 1, 2020, sponsored by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL). Since its introduction, the bill has gained consponsorship from Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and 14 others. Rep. Krishnamoorthi was the original sponsor for a similar version of the bill introduced in September 2020, entitled H.R.8402, which received 127 Democratic and 1 Republican cosponsor.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced a companion bill to Kirhsnamoorthi’s in the Senate in September 2020. Klochuchar’s companion bill has been cosponsored by 27 senators, all of which are Democrats.
The Joint Committee of Congress on the Library is the governing body of National Statuary Hall Collection, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and other fine art found in the Capitol. The proposed House bill, if passed, would direct the Joint Committee to place the statue of RBG in the Capitol.
According to Dr. Wharton, it is likely that this bill will pass. “I can’t imagine it wouldn’t pass in the House. Even in the Senate, I would think it would have bipartisan support. I can’t imagine that Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski would not support it, so I suspect that it would pass.” She added: “I just hope it comes to fruition.”
Even if the bill passes in both the House and Senate, it will be a while before we see any significant progress, according to Dr. Wharton.
For more information on the bill, visit congress.gov.