By George T. Nicola, The Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN)

Virginia Linder began her legal career as an Assistant Attorney General in the Appellate Division of the Oregon Department of Justice. In 1984, she was appointed Oregon’s Assistant Solicitor General. Two years later, she was appointed Oregon Solicitor General.

In 1992, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2, a state constitutional amendment that prevented the state or local governments in the state from banning sexual orientation discrimination. The lawsuit that ensued, Romer v. Evans, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oregon Attorney General Ted Kulongoski asked Virginia, and Rives Kistler, at that time an Assistant Attorney General, to craft an amicus brief on Oregon’s behalf in opposition to Colorado’s law.

The reasoning applied in the Oregon brief was used in the majority opinion issued by Justice Anthony Kennedy, which declared Colorado’s law to violate the U.S. Constitution. Kennedy later extended the reasoning from the Romer decision to subsequent cases and similarly invalidated laws banning homosexual conduct, the Defense of Marriage Act, and prohibitions against same-gender marriage.

Virginia was appointed to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 1997, and was elected to retain that seat in 1998 and 2004. In 2006, she was elected to the Oregon Supreme Court, the first openly lesbian justice to serve on any supreme court in the nation. She was re-elected in 2012, and retired four years later.

Pride Northwest is honored to present Virginia Linder with their 2017 Community Spotlight Award.

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