On Saturday, one of the most bombastic people to serve on the highest court in the land, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was found dead. Although Scalia, 79, was notoriously conservative — and quite vociferously expressed those views in his decisions and in real life — he was actually close friends with one of the most progressive current Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As much as Ginsburg, 82, has become a beloved icon for millennials with her own series of RBG memes, Scalia was seen as the grumpy, out-of-touch grandfather figure. The Ginsburg-Scalia pair was a friendship that outsiders found surprising, considering their nearly-always polar views on a number of issues.
For example, one of their most recent disagreements on the bench was on the topic of same-sex marriage. While Ginsburg voted in favor in last year's landmark Supreme Court decision to strike down gay marriage bans throughout the country and has personally officiated multiple same-sex marriages, Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, which has taken on a certain infamy in its seething anger. Despite these different views, Scalia and Ginsburg had a deep mutual respect for each other. Unsurprisingly, Ginsburg was often questioned about how she could maintain this highly reverential friendship, and her simple response explains the camaraderie perfectly. At a George Washington University event in 2015 when both shared the stage, she said:
I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.
Ginsburg's ability to see through their conflicting opinions to Scalia's intellect and enjoy the person he was outside the hallowed halls of the U.S. Supreme Court is to her credit. Scalia actually said something quite similar about Ginsburg at the same event. Calling them the "odd couple," Scalia said of Ginsburg, "What's not to like — except her views on the law."
The Ginsburg-Scalia pair had such a mystique that it recently inspired its own opera. Derrick Wang's Scalia/Ginsburg premiered last year, a production that had its own meta-quality to it because the two Supreme Court justices actually did enjoy attending the opera together. In fact, Scalia and Ginsburg even vacationed together when the Supreme Court was in recess and regularly celebrated New Year's Eve together, according to a Los Angeles Times article on their "BFF" status.
Though the Supreme Court is not exactly known for its humorous ways, Ginsburg has shared some funny anecdotes about her friendship with Scalia. During an interview with Elle magazine, Ginsburg showed a photo of her and Scalia riding an elephant together when they were sent to India. She was in the back of the elephant, while Scalia was in the front. "My feminist friends say, 'Why are you riding on the back of the elephant?' and I said, "Because of the distribution of weight, we needed to have Scalia in the front."
It may still be hard to picture the seemingly implausible friendship, but Ginsburg and Scalia were a platonic pair that truly valued and respected each other, even in some of the most polarized political times. With Scalia's passing, it's a friendship that the rest of Washington D.C. should look towards as a model.