Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday the appointment of Judge Mary Yu to justice on the state's Supreme Court, making her the first out lesbian as well as the first Asian-American and woman of color to serve as a justice on the court.
"Judge Yu has distinguished herself throughout her career as someone of great intellect, dedication, and compassion," Inslee said. "She has brought to her work, and to her life, a never-wavering commitment to ensuring justice for everyone."
Inslee said the decision came after "an extensive search and careful consideration," and that supreme court justices must confront difficult issues for the almost 6.5 million people in the state.
"I have found the right person at the right moment for the right state," he said. "Her appointment is something all Washingtonians can celebrate and embrace."
Yu, 57, has served as King County Superior Court judge since 2000 and was one of 21 candidates under consideration to fill the vacancy left by Justice Jim Johnson, who retired April 30. She sought the position on the Supreme Court in 2007, but did not receive the appointment.
"As a trial court judge for the last 14 years, I have the utmost respect for our Supreme Court and for the justices who serve our state through their dedicated service," Yu said. "This Supreme Court is indeed an august group of individuals who are committed to the rule of law and to doing the very best job that they can. I commit today to working collaboratively with them so that the integrity of this institution is only strengthened by our work."
Just after midnight on Dec. 9, 2012, Yu officiated some of the first legal marriages for same-sex couples under the state's marriage equality law.
When asked in an April 24 interview with the Seattle Lesbian on her possible appointment to the court, Yu said in part, "He really has, I think, a pool of really, very good people. But I sure would love – because I know I'm qualified, I would sure love to be the first out lesbian up there on that court. First woman of color. First Asian in this area…"
Yu, who grew up in Chicago, is a first-generation American, her mother from Mexico and her father from China. Prior to her appointment to King County Superior Court judge, Yu served as deputy chief of staff to King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng. She also worked as director of the Peace and Social Justice Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago.