A new special team to investigate and help enforce civil rights and anti-discrimination laws has been formed in the state Attorney General’s Office.

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A new special team to investigate and help enforce civil rights and anti-discrimination laws has been formed in the state Attorney General’s Office.

The Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit — which has two assistant attorneys general — is fulfilling a role new for the office, according to State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Before the creation of the unit, civil rights or discrimination complaints would be referred to other agencies, like the state Human Rights Commission or a federal agency, Ferguson said.

Now, the new unit can investigate and bring actions intended to stop discrimination in housing, education, credit, insurance, sexual orientation and other areas.

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The unit is necessary, Ferguson said, because the office “should be doing civil rights work” on behalf of state residents.

Rich Stolz, executive director of the Seattle-based advocacy organization OneAmerica, said the unit could help put pressure on state agencies to make sure they’re following anti-discrimination laws.

The unit is named after Wing Luke, a former assistant attorney general who was elected in 1962 to the Seattle City Council, becoming the first Asian-American to hold public office in the Northwest. Luke, namesake of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, died only a few years later, in a 1965 plane crash in the Cascade Mountains.