Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation is a triumph for women

Monday night, Judge Amy Coney Barrett became Justice Amy Coney Barrett. It was a triumph on many levels. It was a triumph for a judiciary that we rely on to protect our system of representative democracy. It was a triumph for those who recognize the importance of upholding the Constitution as written, not sidestepping it or contorting it into a vehicle for unelected judges to legislate from the bench.

And it was a triumph for conservative women, who for many years have been marginalized in much of our political culture.

Of course, there was a time within living memory that women altogether were denied opportunities that are taken for granted today. Despite graduating third in her class at Stanford Law School, Sandra Day O’Connor notably had a difficult time beginning her legal career. Law firms made no offer to her other than as a legal secretary, so she became a deputy county attorney, initially offering to work for no salary and sharing space with a secretary.

It was a steep climb for O’Connor to become the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court in 1981. Amy Coney Barrett was 9 years old at the time. ­Thirty-nine years later, she becomes the first woman with school-age children to join the high court. Upon her nomination, Barrett paid tribute to O’Connor, as well as to another trailblazer she was chosen to replace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In 2007, a year after O’Connor’s retirement, Ginsburg reflected, “It was good for the public to see that women come in all sizes and shapes, just as men do, and they don’t necessarily look alike or think alike.”

Unfortunately, many of the influencers in academia and mainstream media, to say nothing of our governing class, are decidedly less welcoming of conservative women, and especially women of faith.

We saw this dynamic in play during Barrett’s nomination hearing for the Seventh Circuit in 2017, when the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Dianne Feinstein, told her that “the dogma lives loudly within you” and Sen. Richard Durbin asked, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”

For her part, Judge Barrett emphasized the primacy of the law over any judge’s personal background, symbolized by the black robe judges wear.

It “shows that justice is blind. . . . [O]nce we put it on, we are standing united symbolically speaking in the name of the law, not speaking for ourselves as individuals.”

It is the capacity to do that that counts most — and Barrett earned repeated praise for displaying such ability as well as any Supreme Court nominee those Judiciary Committee members had ever seen. Chairman Lindsey Graham noted during the hearings this opportunity to “punch through” not “a glass ceiling, but a reinforced concrete barrier around conservative women.”

On the day Judge Barrett’s nomination was voted out of committee, Graham summed it up: “It’s moments like this where you can tell young conservative women there’s a place at the table for you.”

Carrie Campbell Severino is president of the Judicial Crisis Network.

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