Justice Ginsburg talks about decision to open VMI to women

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LEXINGTON (WSLS 10) – United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited Virginia Military Institute on Wednesday, 20 years after authoring the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, the landmark 1996 Supreme Court case which opened VMI to women.

VMI and the Washington and Lee School of Law hosted Ginsburg at Cameron Hall where she participated in a sit-down conversation with her two biographers. She did not take questions from the audience or media.

Ginsburg said the VMI case was like a 1982 decision, where the court ruled an all-female school in Mississippi could not exclude men from its nursing program.

"All doors must be open to our sons and daughters," said Ginsburg.  "They will choose to enter those doors if they have the will and talent to do so."

"I wouldn't have been here without her," said VMI cadet Hannah Gillan.

Gillan, a 19-year-old cadet from the Boston area, was born the same year women joined the rat line.

"I came here and they had female leaders since the first class graduated," said Gillan. "They have had these pioneers."

Ginsburg fondly recalled her friend and colleague, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. While there was no mention of Presidents Trump's choice to replace Scalia, Ginsburg recalled Scalia's lone dissent in the VMI case. He said the decision to go coed would kill VMI.

"I knew it wouldn't. It would make VMI a better place," said Ginsburg.

Ginsburg wore a Keydet pin sent to her in 1997 by a VMI graduate.  It was presented to the man's late mother on his graduation day in 1967.  He told Ginsburg that she would be the mother of VMI women and asked her to wear it if she ever visited VMI. The man asked to remain anonymous, but was in the audience for Ginsburg's talk.