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January 6 Panel Seeks Criminal Charges Against Homophobe John Eastman

John Eastman
Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The U.S. House committee investigating the Capitol riot recommends that Eastman face charges for encouraging Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Those who may soon be facing criminal charges for their roles in the U.S. Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021, include John Eastman, a legal adviser to Donald Trump and longtime anti-LGBTQ+ activist.

The U.S. House committee investigating the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which spurred a riot at the Capitol, decided Monday to make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, recommending that Eastman be charged with obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States. It's now up to the DOJ to decide whether to act on the referral.

Eastman made what U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, a member of the committee, called a "meritless proposal" consisting of "a combination of bogus election fraud claims and ... fake electoral ballots" to allow Vice President Mike Pence to "reject legitimate electoral votes for President-elect Biden" when Pence presided over the joint session of Congress tasked with certifying the electoral vote. Eastman knew it was illegal for Pence to reject the votes, but he made the suggestion to Trump anyway.

Before Eastman tried to interfere with the vote count, he was a major activist against LGBTQ+ rights. In 2011, he became chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a group with the primary mission of opposing marriage equality, although it has taken up some other conservative causes too. NOM's website still lists him as chairman and the well-known anti-LGBTQ+ activist Brian Brown as president.

The website hasn't been updated in a while, but NOM remains active on Twitter and Facebook, most recently railing against the Respect for Marriage Act, which Congress recently passed and President Biden signed into law to maintain marriage equality even if the Supreme Court someday overturns its 2015 ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land.

NOM's social media pages, including retweets from Brown's Twitter account, refer to the law as the "Disrespect for Marriage Act," put "marriage" in scare quotes when referring to same-sex unions, and call same-sex marriage "evil." There are also posts denouncing the few Republican senators who voted for the legislation and praising anti-LGBTQ+ leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

At NOM's March for Marriage in 2014, Eastman likened fighting marriage equality to fighting slavery. "The courts should never take away controversial issues away from the voters in this country," he said. "And that's absolutely right. The last time the court tried to do that a century and a half ago on the slavery question, Abraham Lincoln refused to comply. He said if we let the court be the final word, we cease to be our own rulers."

That same year, NOM sought to defend Oregon's same-sex marriage ban in court, since the state's attorney general refused to defend it. Eastman said at the time that NOM was compelled to defend the ban because its Oregon members voted for it in 2004. However, a federal judge ruled in 2014 that NOM did not have the legal standing to do so. The ban was struck down shortly thereafter. Eastman has argued in support of bans in other states as well.

Among Eastman's other greatest hits, compiled by GLAAD and others, he has said marriage should be limited to male-female couples because it's for procreation; voiced support for Uganda's efforts to criminalize homosexuality, potentially imposing the death penalty; questioned Kamala Harris's eligibility to be vice president, even though she was born in the U.S., because her parents were not citizens at the time of her birth; said homosexuality is barbaric and will undermine marriage and all of civil society; and opposed gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ-inclusive lessons in schools.

Eastman was once a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and was dean of its law school from 2007 to 2010. In 2021, he agreed to resign from Chapman immediately in the wake of his appearance at the pro-Trump rally that led to the insurrection. At the rally, he spread the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump: "We know there was fraud. We know that dead people voted." Numerous Chapman faculty members had demanded that Eastman leave the school.

On a conference call with journalists Monday, Eastman said the committee was "biased" and accused members of "cherry-picking the things that supported their position and ignoring all the rest," CBS News reports. Charlie Burnham, one of Eastman's attorneys, said the committee's referral "carries no legal significance" because the DOJ can either act on it or not.

The committee also recommended that the DOJ prosecute Trump for "inciting or assisting an insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to make a false statement," The Washington Post reports. The committee said there will be referrals for others, whose names have not been disclosed yet, although they may include Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The committee released an executive summary of its findings Monday and is set to issue its full report Wednesday.

In addition, the committee Monday recommended that the House Ethics Committee take action regarding four Republican House members -- Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, Andy Biggs, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy -- because they did not comply with subpoenas to testify to the committee.

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