25 September 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes first woman to lie in state at US Capitol

25 September 2020

Commemorations are to begin on  Friday to honour the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the US Capitol.

She is the first woman in American history to lie in state at the building, capping days of commemoration of her extraordinary life.

Mourners paid tribute to Ms Ginsburg, who died last week at age 87, as her casket was on public view at the court’s steps.

Supreme Court Ginsburg Lying in State (AP)

It then made the short procession across the street on Friday morning for the private Capitol ceremony with elected officials, family and other invited guests.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill are expected to attend, as is running mate Kamala Harris.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning to welcome Ms Ginsburg’s casket at the Capitol as President Donald Trump prepares to announce a conservative nominee to replace the liberal icon weeks before the election.

Speaking ahead of the event, Ms Pelosi told CBS Americans need to know what is at stake for the “rush” to confirm Ms Ginsburg’s replacement.

The ceremony is expected to be a celebration and honouring of Ms Ginsburg’s life and work, with musical selections from one of her favourite opera singers, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

Members of the House and Senate who are not invited to the ceremony because of space limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to pay their respects before a motorcade carrying Ms Ginsburg’s casket departs the Capitol in the early afternoon.

Supreme Court Ginsburg (AP)

The honour of lying in state has been accorded fewer than three dozen times, mostly to presidents, vice-presidents and members of Congress.

John Lewis, the civil rights icon, was the most recent person to lie in state after his death in July.

Henry Clay, the Kentucky politician who served as Speaker of the House and also was a senator, was the first in 1852.

Rosa Parks – a private citizen, not a government official – is the only woman who has lain in honour at the Capitol.

Ms Ginsburg has lain in repose for two days at the Supreme Court, where thousands of people paid their respects, including Mr Trump and first lady Melania Trump on Thursday.

Spectators booed and chanted “vote him out” as the president, who wore a mask, stood silently near her casket at the top of the court’s front steps.

Mr Trump plans to announce his nomination on Saturday of a woman to take Ms Ginsburg’s place on the high court, where she served for 27 years and was the leader of the liberal justices.

Ms Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, will be buried next week in Arlington National Cemetery beside her husband, Martin, who died in 2010.

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