Washington governor Jay Inslee made history today when he appointed Mary Yu to the state's Supreme Court, marking the first time an openly LGBT person or a woman of Asian and Latina descent has joined the bench.
The 57-year-old lesbian spent the past 14 years as a King County Superior Court justice, being reelected to her seat four consecutive times. Yu, a Chicago native whose parents were immigrants from Mexico and China, is the first openly gay person to sit on the state's highest court, as well as the first Latina and the first Asian-American.
"Judge Yu has distinguished herself throughout her career as someone of great intellect, dedication and compassion,” Inslee said in announcing the appointment at the Temple of Justice Thursday. "She has brought to her work and to her life a never-wavering commitment to ensuring justice for everyone. Her appointment today is a moment all Washingtonians can be proud of."
Yu promised to remember her professional roots as a public servant, first at the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for the Ministry of Peace and Justice. She also gave a nod to her 14-year stint as a trial court judge, to which she was appointed by former Washington governor Gary Locke.
"Trial court judges, at every level of court, are the workhorses of our system of justice," said Yu in a press release. "I am proud to come from their ranks and will do all that I can to remember that the trial court remains the place where the law is actually applied to everyday life."
Yu will be sworn in later this month, then will run for reelection in the fall, to fulfill the last two years of a six-year term left by Justice Jim Johnson, who retired earlier this week, citing health issues.
According to Yu's bio on the state government's website, she earned a B.A. in theology from Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., followed by an M.A. in religious studies from Loyola University in Chicago, then earned her J.D. from the University of Notre Dame.
"I believe it is clear to everyone that Judge Yu has both the qualifications and experience to sit on our Supreme Court," said Inslee at Yu's appointment ceremony Thursday. "And her personal story adds a unique perspective that is important as our state’s demographics continue to shift."