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First Openly Gay US Attorney Begins Job in Wash.

First Openly Gay US Attorney Begins Job in Wash.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Jenny Durkan, new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, stands in the hallway outside her office in Seattle on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009.

Gene Johnson | The Associated Press via YellowBrix

October 29, 2009

SEATTLE — The new top federal prosecutor in Seattle knows the significance her role carries for many people: She’s apparently the nation’s first openly gay U.S. attorney.

But as a daughter of privilege — her dad was a powerful Democratic state senator, and she had all the benefits of a comfortable upbringing and a good education — Jenny Durkan also recalls what someone once told her: “You’re the most non-diverse diverse person I know.”

“I don’t think I can fully appreciate how important it is to many people to have someone in a role like this who is gay,” Durkan said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. “The more people are able to see people in situations where pretty soon that’s an invisible characteristic, the better it is for the entire community.”

Gay rights activists say her appointment reflects a growing acceptance in the U.S. as well as the attitude of President Barack Obama’s administration. Earlier this month, Obama nominated an openly gay police sergeant to be the U.S. marshal in Minneapolis; she would be the first openly gay U.S. marshal.

Lambda Legal, a national organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, says it knows of no other openly gay U.S. attorneys in the nation’s 93 judicial districts.

“We see it as really sort of a respectful acknowledgment that it is important to have all sorts of people represented in government,” Lambda Legal spokesman Jason Perez Howe said.

Durkan, 51, has been named to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, where she will head a subcommittee on cybercrimes and intellectual property. The FBI is building a new cybercrime center in the old federal courthouse in Seattle, and the U.S. attorney’s office here has done novel work in prosecuting such cases.

Before being confirmed by the Senate a month ago, Durkan performed a wide variety of civil litigation and criminal defense work, and was active in bar associations. In 2002 she traveled to Morocco to train female candidates for parliament.

She has been Gov. Chris Gregoire’s personal attorney and confidante, and represented the Democratic Party when Gregoire’s 133-vote re-election win was confirmed in court.

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