By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
NEW YORK -- A law school professor from Southern California was named Thursday as the new chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the most active groups opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
John Eastman, a professor and former dean at Chapman University Law School in Orange, Calif., will replace NOM's co-founder, Maggie Gallagher, who will remain a member of the board while devoting some of her time to finishing a book about the same-sex marriage debate.
Eastman, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, ran unsuccessfully last year for state attorney general in California, though he did garner support from some tea party activists.
Brian Brown, NOM's president, described Eastman as "a fierce advocate for families and religious liberty."
NOM has been a leading player in many of the recent electoral battles nationwide over same-sex marriage. It helped win passage of Proposition 8 in California, which overturned a court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, and it helped repeal a state law in Maine that would have legalized same-sex marriage there.
More battlegrounds lie ahead for NOM and its adversaries. Voters in North Carolina and Minnesota will be deciding next year on the fate of constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while the Maryland legislature is expected to consider a bill that would legalize it.
In a telephone interview, Eastman challenged the view of gay-rights advocates that same-sex marriage - now legal in six states and Washington D.C. - will inevitably become the law of the land. He noted that opponents of same-sex marriage have prevailed repeatedly in statewide votes, and predicted that the issue would soon head to a potentially pivotal ruling in the Supreme Court.
Gallagher, who often testified at hearings and engaged in public debates on behalf of NOM, became a frequent target of wrath from the gay-rights movement.
In a statement, she said NOM "is now far more successful than even I dreamed."
"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," she said.
NOM has been criticized for fighting against public disclosure of the names of some of its donors, a controversy mentioned by Kevin Nix of Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group, while reacting to Eastman's new post.
"Nothing is likely to change with an organization driven by such anti-gay animus," Nix said. "But it will be interesting to see if Eastman continues NOM's pattern of hiding its donors - or changes course to reflect more mainstream conservative legal thought favoring donor disclosure."