California Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated an openly gay man to the state’s Supreme Court for the first time in California history on Monday.
Justice Martin Jenkins, a former prosecutor and judge, accepted the nomination at a press conference with Newsom. If the state’s Commission on Judicial Appointments confirms Jenkins, as it is expected to do, he will be the first Black man to serve on the court in 29 years and the first openly LGBTQ person ever to join the team of justices.
Jenkins, 66, delivered deeply personal remarks Monday about the influence his sexual orientation has had on his career. “Anyone who knows me knows my identity as a gay man has been the greatest challenge of my life,” he said.
“It has not been easy,” he continued. “But I want to say today to those young people who may be watching ... that I am not here in spite of the struggle; I’m here because of the struggle.”
Being his “authentic self,” Jenkins concluded, is what helped him make it to this point in his career.
“I want these young people to know that living a life of authenticity is the greatest gift you can give yourself,” he said. “And if you do that, you too will find yourself in a position where people see you. ... Thank you, Governor Newsom, for seeing me.”
Jenkins, a Democrat, was nominated to replace retired Justice Ming Chin, a Republican who was the court’s most conservative member. If Jenkins is confirmed, he will be only the third Black man in history to serve on the court.
Newsom applauded the life experience Jenkins will bring to the panel of justices.
“Trust me,” Newsom said Monday. “As someone who understands firsthand the role of the court in determining marriage equality to be a fundamental right, I can’t tell you how important it is to have someone on the bench who’s a living, breathing example of the idea that ‘love means love.’”
Jenkins, who was born in San Francisco to a nurse and a Coit Tower janitor, has been Newsom’s judicial appointments secretary since January 2019 ― a role for which he came out of retirement. Prior to that, he served as a justice in the California Court of Appeals and as a judge in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. He also briefly played professional football for the Seattle Seahawks.