By Judith L. Lichtman
Friday, June 4, 2010
Elena Kagan's nomination is particularly sweet for women who personally know the milestone it represents. Judy Lichtman remembers being the token woman in her law school and having the question about rape reserved for her.
I've known Kagan for many decades and I am so gratified to see a woman of her caliber nominated to this important post. In all her endeavors--as a practicing attorney, a law school professor, the first female dean of Harvard Law School and as our nation's first female solicitor general--Kagan has shown herself to be a woman of towering intellect, a fair and independent thinker and a fierce defender of justice for all. She is an inspiration to me and to all of us who strive for justice.
Even though Kagan is not the first woman to take a seat on the High Court, her appointment is still an important milestone in our long journey toward equal rights. That's because Kagan's nomination is about more than just numbers.
If she is confirmed, we will be one step closer to the day when a female nominee's gender is no longer remarkable, closer to that elusive cultural tipping point when it is no longer unusual to see women on the Supreme Court or in other positions of significant power. If three women are serving on the nation's highest tribunal, perhaps the gender of the fourth female justice won't be a focal point. I'd like to believe that her qualifications may be scrutinized, but her outfit won't.
We're still a long way from that day, but we're a lot closer to it than when I started working to fight sex discrimination more than three decades ago.
It has taken much, much too long to get to this point. But at least now, as I reflect on that recent White House ceremony, I can imagine the day when there are four--or even five!--female justices and, someday soon, true equality.
It's about time.
Judith L. Lichtman is the former president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. She is currently a senior advisor at the organization.
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