The well attended event included five current and two former Washington State Supreme Court Justices, nine members of Wing Luke’s family and many other luminaries from the civil rights community who share the common goal of equality for all Washington residents.
Supreme Court Justices Steven González, Mary Fairhurst, Debra Stephens, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson, Justice Susan Owens, former Justices Charles Smith and Faith Ireland (click on photo for a full resolution copy)
“We are the lawyers for the people of Washington state. We are the largest law firm in the state. It is appropriate and important that we have a team dedicated to protecting civil rights,” said Ferguson.
Led by Assistant Attorney General Colleen Melody — a Spokane native and former member of the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division — the Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit works to protect the rights of all Washington residents by enforcing state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The unit will investigate and bring actions to end discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education, credit and insurance transactions, and at government offices and businesses open to the public. The unit will work closely with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, federal agencies, and civil rights stakeholders.
“Our team will enforce the Washington Law against Discrimination and be a community resource to help people know their rights and how to protect them,” said Melody, speaking to the audience of community leaders. “And we will collaborate and work together with all of you on ways to make Washington a fairer place to work, live, go to school, and play together.”
The Civil Right Unit is named for Wing Luke, who served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Washington in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went on to become the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council and the first Asian-American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest. Throughout his life and career, Luke was a champion for civil rights and fought to improve the quality of life for all people.
“My brother Wing Luke had a saying, ‘Don’t do things because of who is right, but because of what is right,’” said Bettie Luke, Wing Luke’s sister and former board member of the Wing Luke Museum.
It is believed this is the first time the Attorney General’s Office has named a division or unit to honor the life and legacy of an individual. Ferguson’s intent is not only to honor Wing Luke, but to establish a vision and role model for the future work of the Attorney General’s Office civil right team.
Ferguson also announced yesterday that his office is releasing a new Civil Rights Resource Guide. The guide provides Washington residents with information about their rights under state and federal law and where to go if they believe they have experienced discrimination.
If you have a civil rights complaint, you can contact the Attorney General’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit by visiting www.atg.wa.gov/have-civil-rights-complaint.