The problem we currently face is due to our confusing the roles of church and state. We have governments determining the requirements one must meet in order to obtain both the legal benefits of of a civil union and the spiritual blessings of marriage. Religious organizations object to the blessings of marriage being given to those who do not meet their “religious standards” for those blessings. Many organizations see this as justification for trying to insert their beliefs into the law, so that one must meet their religious standards in order to receive the legal benefits.
In order to resolve this problem, we must recognize that marriage, as we know it, has two sides:
1. A civil union with the corresponding legal and tax benefits, and;
2. A religious marriage that consists of spiritual blessings and privileges associated with and defined by the religious organization that grants them.
Government has no legitimate role in bestowing or withholding the blessings of marriage for anyone. The concept of marriage has its roots deep in religion, predating the very existence of the concept of “the state”. Government can only legitimately bestow legal rights to those who are willing to make the legal “civil union” contract and submit to the required restrictions and limitations that accompany it.
Likewise, religions have no legitimate role in bestowing legal rights. Religious organizations are limited to extending or withholding membership and fellowship as well as the spiritual blessings they claim to control.
The government, then, should grant legal benefits to those willing to take upon themselves the covenants and responsibilities of a “civil union” and religious organizations should grant the spiritual blessings of “marriage” to those who meet the requirements they have defined for obtaining those blessings.
Therefore, If a couple (or trio or tribe) desires the tax and other legal benefits of a civil union, let them obtain such benefits from the government who must grant such benefits without discrimination to all willing to make the required commitments. If they wish further to have their union sanctified or recognized by a particular religious organization and obtain the spiritual blessings associated with that organization’s concept of marriage, let them meet that organization’s requirements for those blessings. If the legal benefits are their only interest, they can skip all the religious requirements.
Let the religions be free and let the government be nondiscriminatory. Above all, let the people be dealt with fairly and pursue their religious beliefs (or lack of same) freely, without restraint.