SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Governor Gavin Newsom nominated the first openly gay man to the California Supreme Court on Monday.
If 66-year-old Martin Jenkins is confirmed, he would become the first gay person and third Black person to join the bench.
It was an emotional moment for Jenkins who said being a gay man was one of the biggest challenges of his life, as well as one that helped prepare him for this historic honor.
“My identity has been as a gay man perhaps the greatest challenge of my life,” he said in his acceptance speech. “It has not been easy.”
Jenkins said he jumped a lot of hurdles in his life to get to this moment, not only due to his sexuality but also the color of his skin.
“I am not here in spite of the struggle. I am here because of the struggle,” he said.
As McGeorge School of Law professor Larry Levine pointed out, Jenkins adds a fresh perspective to the high court at a time it matters most. He spent part of his decadeslong career as a federal civil rights attorney, prosecuting cases of police misconduct in the 1980s.
“He brings with him vast experience, life experience, as well as judicial experience,” Levine told FOX40. “One of the things that particularly moves me about his appointment is that he comes from more humble roots than many of the other justices.”
As an openly gay man himself working in law, Levine said he views Monday’s nomination as a symbol of hard-fought progress.
“I celebrate with so many others that California has become a leader in the country regarding diversity and this is just one other representation of that by having one of the most diverse supreme courts in the country,” Levine said.
As Jenkins rejoiced in his achievement, he said he hopes to inspire others living in the shadows to step out into their light.
“I want these young people to know that living a life of authenticity is the greatest gift you can give yourself. And if you do that, you too will find yourself in a position where people see you, they really see you and who you are,” he said.
If confirmed — which experts believe he will be — Jenkins will be replacing Justice Ming Chin, who is one of the last right-leaning members on the bench and is retiring.