Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke one final barrier on Friday, becoming the first woman and the first Jewish American to lie in state in the United States Capitol.
The honor, arranged by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as a private ceremony at the Capitol, brought to a close a week of public memorials for Justice Ginsburg, the liberal jurist and trailblazer for women who died last Friday at 87. Her family plans to hold a private burial next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
Like the memorial at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the honors beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at the Capitol were brief and mostly limited to family and a small contingent of lawmakers.
Denyce Graves, the mezzo-soprano and a friend of Justice Ginsburg’s, performed “Deep River” and “American Anthem” in tribute to the justice’s love of opera.
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, who eulogized Justice Ginsburg on Wednesday, did so again on Friday, recounting how she climbed to the highest court in the nation despite the obstacles she faced in the legal profession as a woman.
“Justice did not arrive like a lightening bolt, but rather through dogged persistence, all the days of her life,” said Rabbi Hotlzblatt, whose husband clerked for Justice Ginsburg from 2014 to 2015. “Real change, she said, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
Only about 30 Americans have received the honor of lying in state at the Capitol: presidents, military leaders and members of Congress, all of them men. Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon, is the only other woman granted a similar distinction, but as a private citizen, she lay “in honor.” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, who was Jewish, lay in repose in the Senate chamber in 2013, a similar but lesser honor that has been afforded to prominent senators.
Justice Ginsburg was to lie in the National Statuary Hall on the House side of the Capitol, where Democrats are in control. Many dignitaries have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda, between the House and Senate, but both chambers must agree and pass special legislation to allow it.