From time to time, just one human story becomes something akin to a modern parable. David French—writer, lawyer, public intellectual—is now that person. It is no insult to say that French, in himself, contains multitudes. In two recent articles, French defends both what is wrongly called the “Respect for Marriage Act” and his own process of thinking about same-sex marriage. He says that he has written these articles as acts of personal intellectual honesty, and I have no reason to question his integrity of mind. What I mean to criticize most strenuously is the ideas he now promotes. I do not argue that David French is disingenuous. I argue that he is wrong, and dangerously wrong at that.
In a piece published last week at The Atlantic, French argues that the Respect for Marriage Act rightly “protects same-sex marriage” and “contains religious-freedom protections for religious dissenters, including explicit protections for tax exemptions.” His main argument is that the legislation codifying same-sex marriage nationwide rightly balances competing interests (LGBTQ rights and religious liberty) and thus represents “how pluralism is supposed to work.” He argues that the bill just maintains “the legal status quo.”