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WORLD | 26-09-2020 10:30

Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes history again, lying in state at Capitol

Late Supreme Court lay in state Friday at the US Capitol, the first woman so honoured in the United States. Trump set to announce nominee later today.

Late US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was honoured Friday at the US Capitol, where she made history one final time, becoming the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state there.

Ginsburg's flag-draped casket was carried up the Capitol east steps and brought to Statuary Hall, where the justice's relatives, US lawmakers and dignitaries including Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, were in attendance.

Guests – wearing masks and observing social distance guidelines to guard against the spread of coronavirus – placed their hands on their hearts as an honour guard laid the casket on a wooden stand draped by black ribbon.

The stand, known as a catafalque, was the same one that bore president Abraham Lincoln's body after his assassination in 1865.

Ginsburg, who died on September 18 at age 87, was only the second woman to serve on the United States’ highest court, and became known for changing the face of anti-discrimination law in the country.

"May she rest in peace," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in brief remarks, before later approaching the casket and making a sign of the cross.

Biden, who like Pelosi is Catholic, made the same gesture when he stopped before the casket with his wife Jill Biden.

Most lawmakers in attendance were Democratic women, including Biden's running-mate Senator Kamala Harris, although some Republicans also paid their respects, including the party's number two in the House, Steve Scalise.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, addressing the gathering, said Ginsburg – who beat back several bouts of cancer before succumbing to pancreatic cancer – "pursued justice" every day of her life, even in illness. "Justice did not arrive like a lightning bolt but rather through dogged persistence," he said.

Trump to name nominee

US President Donald Trump, Biden's election rival, has vowed to quickly fill the crucial court vacancy and has said he will announce his pick to replace Ginsburg on Saturday.

The Republican leader paid his respects to the late justice Thursday at the Supreme Court, where he was heckled by protesters shouting “honour her wish," invoking the liberal justice's deathbed plea not to be replaced until after the November election.

Trump is not accustomed to honouring political opponents, and his visit to the Supreme Court to pay his respects to Ginsburg is a rare tribute by the Republican president. 

According to National Public Radio, Ginsburg, during her final days, told her granddaughter, Clara Spera, that her "most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Despite Ginsburg's plea and Democratic opposition, Trump is pushing ahead with plans to replace the feminist icon on the court ahead of the presidential election.

"I think it's going to go very, very quickly," he told Fox News Radio on Thursday.

Trump has pledged to nominate a woman to fill Ginsburg's seat and the White House has been vetting candidates for confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate. 

"I have five women. I like them all," Trump said.

Ginsburg's death last week at the age of 87 could allow Trump to cement a conservative majority on the nine-member court for decades to come.

Democrats are demanding that the process of replacing Ginsburg wait until after the election, when it will be known whether Trump will serve a second term.

But Trump says the post must be filled, in case the election is contested and ends up before the high court – a possibility that is raising tensions in Washington.

– TIMES/AFP

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