Martin Jenkins made history this week when he was unanimously confirmed to the California Supreme Court, becoming the first openly gay man to serve there, the Commission on Judicial Appointments announced.
Jenkins, 66, was nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace former Associate Justice Ming Chin, 77, who retired Aug. 31.
Jenkins, in addition to being the court’s first openly gay justice, will be just the third Black associate justice ever to serve on the court, and the first since the 1981 appointment of Allen Broussard. A report by the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation said that Justice Jenkins is “exceptionally well qualified” and “he is praised for his brilliant intellect, first-class temperament, and boundless humanity.”
Jenkins, a San Francisco native, served as a judge on the
California Court of Appeal for the First District from April 2008 to January 2019, when Newsom tapped Jenkins to be his judicial appointments secretary.
Jenkins served as a deputy district attorney and a prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division before becoming a judge in the Alameda County court system. In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where he served before former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the state appeals court system.
“Jenkins is) a man of inner strength, grace and compassion who knows that despite what the (Declaration of Independence) says, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not simply inalienable; they must be relentlessly protected and defended,” Newsom said.
Jenkins identified the greatest challenge of his life as being a gay Black man, and conceded that it has not been easy identifying as such.
“I am not here in spite of the struggle, I am here because of the struggle,” Jenkins said. "It has deepened my character, afforded me sensibilities about the world and about people who are not so willing to accept that people can love differently than they do, but nevertheless love sincerely, genuinely and effectively.”