OLYMPIA – It has been a week of firsts in the Washington State Legislature.
The swearing in of Sen. Yasmin Trudeau (D-Tacoma) on Monday, joining Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) and Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent), marked the first time in American history that Muslim, Sikh and Hindu lawmakers have served together in any state or federal legislative body.
Tuesday saw Dhingra and Trudeau presiding over the Senate Law & Justice Committee as chair and vice chair, the first time two South Asian women have served in such roles together in Washington state history.
From left: Rep. Vandana Slatter, Sen. Manka Dhingra, Sen. Mona Das, Sen. Yasmin Trudeau
“When I joined the Senate in 2017, I doubled the size of the Women of Color Caucus, from one to two,” said Dhingra, who was the first Sikh American ever elected to a state legislature. “Then, in 2018, we doubled it again, from two to four. Now we have one of the most diverse legislatures in the country. This is what it means for our government to look like the people it represents.”
“We are proving every day to the world that America celebrates the diversity of our communities,” said Das, the first person from the Indian state of Bihar, one of the country’s largest, elected to legislative office in the U.S. “Women of color are leading the way by lifting up the voices of constituents who haven’t been represented before in the halls of power.”
Das’s 2018 election to the Senate led to the first time that three Indian-American women served together in a state legislature in the U.S. Upon election, she joined Dhingra and Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue), who had been appointed to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2017 and was the first-ever Indian-American legislator in that body.
“I’m proud to join my Senate colleagues in bringing a new and diverse perspective to the Legislature,” said Slatter. “Each generation has the opportunity to forge a path and to be an inspiration for the next.”
“Every day, we take seriously the responsibility of using our lived and professional experience to amplify the stories, ideas and concerns of the most marginalized,” said Trudeau, the first Muslim and first immigrant from Bangladesh to serve in the Washington state Legislature. “We know that we are not only representing the people of our district; we are representing everyone who has been on the outside looking in.”
“None of us is defined solely by our religion or our background or our community,” said Dhingra. “But all of us are shaped by them. And now those communities are shaping our civic culture for the better.”
The legislators are joined by new Senate Counsel Suchi Sharma, who this year became the first Indian American to serve in that role in Washington state history.
The 60-day legislative session began on Jan. 10.