Anti-Gay Activist NOM’s New Chair

John Eastman, law professor, replaces Maggie Gallagher leading marriage equality foes

A conservative who defended the Boy Scouts exclusion of gay scout masters and California’s ban on gay marriage was named the board chair of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a leading anti-gay marriage group.

“I’m grateful to NOM’s president, Brian Brown, for leading this organization, and the addition of an eminent public intellectual like John Eastman to the NOM team is a great sign as we move forward to the battles ahead,” Maggie Gallagher, a NOM co-founder and the previous board chair in a September 22 statement that was posted on NOM’s blog.

Eastman is a professor at the Chapman University law school and a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm that has fought for conservative causes in the courts since 1999.

Eastman filed a friend of the court brief supporting the ban on gay scoutmasters in the lawsuit brought by James Dale, a gay man who was thrown out of the Boy Scouts in 1990. Dale lost his case before the US Supreme Court in 2000 when the court ruled that the Scouts were a private group that could choose its own members.

“It’s very important, not just for the Boy Scouts, but for every private organization in the country,” Eastman told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000.

In the Proposition 8 legal wrangling, Eastman filed a friend of the court briefs at least twice supporting the gay marriage ban or the right of the ban’s proponents to appeal their loss in federal court.

Eastman was quoted in a 2010 OC Weekly article saying that Vaughn R. Walker, the judge in the federal case, should have recused himself because he was gay.

“I do think the fact that he’s had a long-term relationship with another man may disqualify him,” Eastman said. “He had a financial or other interest in the outcome of the litigation.”

In 1989, Eastman was employed at the US Commission on Civil Rights and defended William B. Allen, the commission chair, when Allen planned on speaking to a group that offered purported cures for homosexuality. The title of the speech was “Blacks, Animals, and Homosexuals: What is a Minority?” Allen stepped down as chair, but remained on the commission.

“Some people in this world think that the best way to wage an argument with an opponent is to force him to keep quiet,” Eastman told the Orange County Register in 1989. “That doesn’t encourage rational debate, and it certainly doesn’t encourage our search for the truth.”

Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a pro-gay marriage group, said the appointment was in keeping with NOM’s work.

“It’s putting forward another anti-gay zealot with a religious agenda that they try to cloak in tautological arguments that don’t stand up and are really just a cover for the small group of funders who are backing these anti-gay attacks,” Wolfson said.