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First openly Gay U.S. attorney begins work in Washington
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First openly Gay U.S. attorney begins work in Washington

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Jenny Durkan, the new top federal prosecutor in Seattle, began work last month as the nation's first openly Gay U.S. attorney.

"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," said Durkan. "The more people who are able to see people in situations where pretty soon [being Gay will be] an inevitable characteristic, the better it is for the entire community."

Lambda Legal, a national organization that promotes equal rights for LGBT people, says it knows of no other openly Gay U.S. attorneys in the nation's 93 judicial districts.

"We see it really sort of a respectful acknowledgement 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.

In mid-May, President Obama officially appointed Durkan as U.S. Attorney for the Western Washington District of Washington. The White House press release said Durkan "is a noted civil and criminal litigator in private practice."

Then, in late September, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Durkan to be U.S. attorney in Seattle, responsible for prosecuting criminal and civil cases and defending federal agencies in court.

Gay rights activists say her appointment shows a growing acceptance in the U.S. as well as the attitude of the Obama administration. Last 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.

Durkan has been around politics and government her entire life. Her father is the late Martin Durkan, a powerful state senator and lobbyist who twice ran for governor as a Democrat. Durkan was a top aide to Governor Mike Lowry and has handled legal work for Governor Chris Gregoire, specifically, representing Gregoire in the legal challenge to the 2004 election. She's also worked abroad, in 2002 Durkan traveled to Morocco to train female candidates for parliament.

Durkan has said she hopes to be judged on her performance as U.S. attorney - not her sexual orientation.

"In this region, I don't think it's very remarkable that you have someone who is Gay in a position of authority, because it's woven throughout our culture," Durkan said. "In other parts of the country it might be, but I think a generation from now it will be a footnote."

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