- Can it be any surprise, then, that a mass-democratic, individualistic, consumerist society in which men and women are interchangeable in all other public aspects finds them interchangeable in marriage as well?
Opponents of same-sex marriage can, of course, come up with any number of reasons why men and women should not be interchangeable where this institution is concerned. (Note, however, how rarely such opponents argue against interchangeability in other traditional capacities, such as voting.) These arguments have little prospect of gaining traction in the long run since they are contrary to the most basic inclination of a liberal democratic society—the inclination to erase distinctions between persons.
The case against gay marriage is as hard to make in a liberal-democratic society as the case for gay marriage is to make in a Christian society. In each instance, the playing field is not level: the architecture of the public order embodies certain assumptions about what a human being is and who may enforce what rules—including who may marry whom.
The fundamental question of politics is “who ultimately governs?” In some phases of Western civilization, the answer has been “the clan.” In another, it was “the Church.” Church and clan battled for supremacy for a thousand years. They both lost: once the princes seemed at last to liberate themselves from the Church after the Reformation, they soon found the new armies and administrative structures they had fostered were more deeply rooted in “the people” than in the traditional aristocracy. The people demanded to play a role greater than that of soldier and subject; they demanded sovereignty. Marriage is now what they make of it.