Black, gay justice makes history with confirmation to California’s Supreme Court

Confirmation hearing for Martin Jenkins to Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court.

An out gay judge has made history with his appointment to California’s Supreme Court.

Martin Jenkins, who was nominated for the vacant seat on the state court by Governor Gavin Newsom last month, will be the first out LGBT+ person, the first queer person of colour, and and only the third African-American man ever to serve on the state’s highest court.

His nomination was unanimously confirmed on Tuesday (November 10), with the independent Commission on Judicial Appointments issuing glowing praise of the eminently-qualified justice.

Glowing praise for California’s first Black gay Supreme Court justice

Its report says: “Justice Jenkins’ impressive 30-year record of professional accomplishment is equally matched by his strength of character, compassion, and integrity. He is praised for his brilliant intellect, first-class temperament, and boundless humanity.

“Justice Jenkins embodies the qualities sought in a Supreme Court candidate: collegiality, writing ability, scholarship and distinction in the legal profession coupled with an unparalleled breadth of experience.

“Moreover, his  compassion, humility, lifelong commitment to public service, and passion for justice make him a most deserving and worthy addition to the state’s highest court.

“Accordingly, the Commission found Justice Jenkins to be exceptionally well qualified for the office to which he was nominated, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court.”

Martin Jenkins has made history with his appointment to California's Supreme Court

Martin Jenkins has made history with his appointment to California’s Supreme Court (Courtesy Commission on Judicial Appointments)

Jenkins, the son of a janitor who grew up helping his dad clean buildings, found success in law despite his early dream of becoming an NFL player. He spent years as a civil rights attorney, and has been appointed to four judgeships by both Democrats and Republicans.

The justice kept his sexuality private for most of his life and only began coming out in the last five years, before meeting and falling in love with his partner, real estate broker Sydney Shand.

‘Monumental step forward’ for LGBT+ community in California

Rick Chavez Zbur of Equality California said: “Governor Newsom’s appointment of California’s first openly gay supreme court justice is a monumental step forward for the LGBTQ+ community and for our entire state.

“Not only is Justice Jenkins exceptionally qualified and an outstanding choice for California’s highest court, but he embodies the values of our great state. Governor Newsom is setting a national example as he works to ensure California’s government reflects the diversity of the people they serve.”

Newsom said in a release last month: “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.”

Jenkins said: “I am truly humbled and honored to be asked by the Governor to continue serving the people of California on the Supreme Court.

“I will serve with the highest ethical standards that have guided me throughout my career, informed by the law and what I understand to be fair and just.”