On December 21, the West Hollywood City Council made the decision that they want to rename the local West Hollywood Library after late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 3 in favor and 2 opposed.
The honor for Justice Ginsburg is based on her status as an “icon for women, for the LGBT community, for workers and every progressive value that West Hollywood holds,” councilmember Sepi Shyne said.
The renaming of the library is not finalized by the vote. The Public Facilities Commission must weigh the proposal before the official decision is made, but the City Council’s position has been made. The library is also part of the Los Angeles County library system, which means they would have to confer with them to make the change.
The name of the facility, if finalized, would become the Ruth Bader Ginsburg West Hollywood Library.
West Hollywood’s city policy at the moment, however, is the main obstacle. The rules dictate that the town must wait at least two years after a person’s death before naming a public building or property after that person.
Shyne wants to forego that waiting period.
“Other government bodies may in fact be interested in naming buildings after her… I would like West Hollywood to be on the forefront of that. This is about the future of West Hollywood,” Shyne said in her statement.
“I can’t imagine a better person to name the library for,” said Councilmember and former mayor John D’Amico, who voted in favor of the measure. Councilmember Lauren Meister, who initiated the idea, was the third vote in approval. ” It puts our library on a different level,” she said.
Current mayor Lindsey Horvath and councilmember John Erickson were the two votes opposed to making the decision. They both feel that the public should have an opportunity to make their say heard in the matter, specifically West Hollywood’s separate Lesbian and Gay, Transgender, and Women advisory boards.
Adding that he ‘admired’ Justice Ginsburg, Erickson said that “if Ruth Bader Ginsburg is meant to be on and emblazoned on the West Hollywood Library, I think many people will come to that conclusion naturally.”
“This is about making sure that the public is involved in the conversation and that the process considers everyone fairly,” Mayor Horvath said on the matter. “I would like to see our process, being the progressive city that we are, be open to considering other names and allow for a public process that considers other names, in no way diminishing RBG.”
Mayor Horvath also noted that the process of naming the library should be something that unifies the city, not divisive. This is the first time since West Hollywood, considered one of the world’s most renown “gay villages,” has named a building since it was incorporated in 1984. All other names on property in the area were named prior.
That’s why Councilmember D’Amico is pushing for Ginsburg. “I can’t imagine that I want the first building we name after someone to be a man,” he added.
Ginsburg was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court from 1993 until her death in September. She frequently supported and voiced her opinion in favor of progressive policies, consistently ruling on the liberal end of court decisions, including LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.
One other name under consideration for use in renaming the library is former Councilmember John Heilman, who served on the Council for 36 years until December. Local residents felt that Heilman was a better choice because he was involved in the West Hollywood community as opposed to Ginsburg, who is not known to have ever even visited the Hollywood-adjacent town within the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
A resident even said that choosing Ginsburg would be a “demotion,” as the late justice’s name should be reserved for national or more prominent buildings.
Noting her legacy was “felt by all of us,” Shyne said that “even though she may not have lived in West Hollywood, her decisions have affected positively every person living in West Hollywood.”
“Ginsburg fundamentally expanded access to the American promise of liberty and equality for all,” she said.
Heilman was the only name seriously considered for someone who is still alive. Others under consideration include Rita Norton, who served as a librarian at the West Hollywood Library for over 20 years, and passed away in 2018. Ron Stone, considered the “father of West Hollywood” before passing away in 1998 from AIDS, had a building named after him that was demolished for the library.
Finally, another contender was Marsha P. Johnson, the legendary trans activist and organizer known for her presence at the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. She is believed to have visited West Hollywood before.