Making a Difference

Stout & Casey Sept. 9, 2015

The Supreme Court makes decisions every year that affect people's lives. Sometimes we don't even realize the affects because they are subtle, but important. This year, with decisions on major issues, including marriage equality, the affects are obvious, profound, and controversial.

I remember the day the Supreme Court changed my life. But it wasn't with a decision. On August 19, 1981, I was a young girl. I had not even considered that at some point in my life I would go to law school. But on that day, I saw Ronald Reagan nominate Sandra Day O'Connor to be an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, and life for me changed. I was raised by professional parents, told from the day I was born that I could do or be anything. That had a very different meaning after August 19, 1981. On that day, a woman joined the ranks of the bretheren and changed how little girls and young women viewed their career possibilities. We did not all dream of becoming justices of the Supreme Court, but for the first time in our lives, it was possible.

I have to think that it is the same way others felt when the court decided in Loving v. Virginia that the state cannot prohibit those of different races from marrying; when the court in Brown v. Board of Education struck down the barriers to black students attending previously segregated schools; when the court in Bowers v. Hardwick ruled that no one can be criminally prosecuted for how they choose to practice their sexuality; recently in Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that every citizen has the right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation or gender; and so many, many more cases.

As an unelected body of only 9 people, the Supreme Court holds a very different place in our political arena. One of the three major branches of government, the judicial branch is supposed to remain unaffected by the politics of the day. That has not always been true. I do not remember a single law that was passed in 1981. I do not remember a single speech the president gave, or a single presidential action during 1981. But I remember seeing Sandra Day O'Connor step up, raise her right hand, be sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger, and take her place among the men of the nation's highest court, changing forever the way it looked and the way little girls like me looked at it and ourselves.

To the strong, courageous, brilliant women who came before me, I am forever grateful for making my path so much easier to walk.