California Governor Gavin Newsom Nominates Martin Jenkins, First Openly Gay Black Man to State Supreme Court

California Governor Gavin Newsom Nominates Martin Jenkins, First Openly Gay Black Man to State Supreme Court

October 5, 2020

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday he nominated Martin J. Jenkins as the first openly gay and third Black man to serve as a justice on the California Supreme Court.

“Anyone who knows me knows my identity has been as a gay man, perhaps the greatest challenge of my life,” said Jenkins. “It has not been easy. But I want to say to those young people today who may be watching…that I am not here in spite of the struggle. I am here because of the struggle. It is deep in my character, afforded me sensibilities about the world and people who are not so willing to accept that people are able to love differently than they do.

“I want these young people to know that authenticity is the greatest gift you can give yourself,” he continued powerfully. “And in doing so, people see you. I want to thank you Governor Newsom for seeing me.”

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As Newsom came back to the mic he was briefly, uncharacteristically, at a loss for words.

“Well…Now you know why I just nominated Judge Jenkins,” said the governor.

Jenkins is 66 and a Bay Area native. He has for decades worked in California’s state and federal courts as well as the region’s criminal justice system.

Last year he came out of retirement to help Newsom’s administration as the judicial appointments secretary with the goal to enhance diversity on the state’s benches.

Jenkins’ nomination comes as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell attempt to place a new U.S. Supreme Court justice on the bench before the November 3 election. Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, faces fierce opposition from Democrats, many of whom fear who she might rule on Roe v. Wade and other culturally divisive issues.

Said Newsom in a statement:

It has been 29 years since an African American man has served on the California Supreme Court. Justice Jenkins is widely respected among lawyers and jurists, active in his Oakland community and his faith, and is a decent man to his core…As a critical member of my senior leadership team, I’ve seen firsthand that Justice Jenkins possesses brilliance and humility in equal measure. The people of California could not ask for a better jurist or kinder person to take on this important responsibility.

Watch Newsom’s appointment and Jenkins’ speech below.

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