Martin Jenkins, a former NFL player, came out publicly as gay while being nominated by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to the state’s Supreme Court. He has since been unanimously confirmed to the court by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, AP reports.
The appointment is historic on a number of levels. According to the governor’s office:
“He would be the first openly gay California Supreme Court justice and only the third African American man ever to serve on the state’s highest court. It has been 29 years since an African American man has served on the California Supreme Court.”
It also marks the first time we at Outsports have been aware that Jenkins is gay and played in the NFL. He is just now opening up about coming out, talking with The Advocate about his journey through football that has brought him to this momentous point:
“I compartmentalized in college, when I went to the NFL, through law school, through all of it, and in my mind, I wasn’t gay for a long time,” he told John Casey for The Advocate. “I just kept pressing it down, pressing it down until in some shape or form it just became nonexistent. Once in a while it would rear its head, but it never went away. How could it?”
The defensive back played college football at Santa Clara Univ. before joining the Seattle Seahawks. According to SF Gate, Jenkins played just two games for the Seahawks before deciding he’d be a better lawyer than a football player.
The list of publicly out gay and bi former NFL players Outsports knows of now stands at 14, more than the other major men’s pro-sports leagues in North America combined.
Casey asked him about being the first publicly out LGBTQ person on California’s high court.
“There were others before me who were qualified and who weren’t out or weren’t selected,” Jenkins said. “So being the first, and being an African-American man too, is a big responsibility. I think I know how being in the minority feels, and so my plan is to do the job as well as I can.
Jenkins has a somewhat unique distinction, having been appointed to seats by Republicans Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Democrats Bill Clinton and now Newsom.
We congratulate Jenkins on a speedy confirmation of hopefully a long, constructive career as a California Supreme Court justice.