One of the biggest complaints I hear about same sex marriage is that marriage is a religious institution and therefor the government cannot decide whether gay and lesbian couples can marry or not. Unfortunately, marriage is NOT only a religious institution. If it were simply a religious thing then there would be no real arguments about this issue I believe for the majority of people. When people are married in a church are they doing it in front of God and for religious purposes? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Lots of people are married and it has nothing to do with any God or any religion whatsoever. While for some it may be a religious thing, for atheist heterosexuals I would imagine their marriages have nothing to do with religion at all. Even for the religious though, it is not ONLY a religious thing. The state (government) is very much involved in the rites of marriage and so whether you wish it to be or not, marriage is no longer a simply religious thing. Marriage has become the state recognizing the rights of individuals to share property and wealth, to take care of children brought into the relationship, and to receive inheritances. This is why it is required for you to go to city hall and get an official state marriage license, because it is NOT solely a religious event but also a legal one. Clearly, if anyone really thinks about it, marriage is not purely a religious ceremony anymore. If you disagree, just try to go to a priest to get a divorce.
So, some would say, "Then let the gays and lesbians get civil unions and they can have all of the legal rights, but not have the official title of being married". At first, this may seem like a reasonable solution and I will grant you that it is better than completely denying the rights of of gay and lesbian couples. But, better is simply not good enough. Better is still a lot like getting slapped in the face.
A civil union is not acceptable simply because what it is saying is that minorities (GLBT) are less valuable and do not have the right to receive the same state sponsored (not simply religiously sponsored) rights which the majority receive.
Imagine if you owned a restaurant and you had only daughters and lived in a time or place where women were not allowed to inherit lands or titles. Now imagine, you knew that you were going to die and you wanted your daughters to inherit and become the owners of the restaurant but they were not allowed under the current laws to inherit nor hold the title of owner of the restaurant. So, you go and begin a campaign to get women the exact same rights as men. You are successful in getting a great many to listen and agree with about how it is unjust to treat people differently simply because of the genetic roll of the dice of whether they were born with a penis or vagina. The leaders of your state, country or fiefdom see that you are garnering support for your cause and in an effort to calm the masses they offer you a compromise. The compromise is this, they will let your daughters inherit your restaurant and receive all of the same financial benefits as a son would but your daughters will NOT be allowed to call themselves the owners of the restaurant, because religiously (in both the old and new testament depending on how you interpret the verses) men have to be the head of a family or business. So they are giving your daughters all of the legal benefits, but denying them the right to be called the owners of the business. Would you be happy with that compromise? I wouldn't. It is my restaurant and I worked hard to make it what it is, and my daughters deserve the right to be able to call themselves the owners of the restaurant.
Civil unions are not an acceptable solution because what it says essentially is we will give you the legal privileges but we are going to deny you the title of "spouse" and "married" because somehow you are less than everybody else and you do not deserve that title. It would be like telling Jackie Robinson, "Look Jackie, we will let you play in the Negro Leagues in baseball, but not in the Majors. I mean it is essentially the same thing right? They are still hitting, pitching, stealing bases, throwing no-hitters, and even setting and breaking records just like in the Major Leagues, right? It is exactly the same game." But in all honesty it is not the same, because those three letters MLB (Major League Baseball) make all the difference in the world. Offering gay and lesbian couples the rights and privileges but denying them the title of "married" is a lot like telling Jackie Robinson that the Negro Leagues are good enough and you do not really need the title of "Major League Baseball Player". It is simply not the same. Without the proper title, you are being denied something special and valuable.
I do have one last question for you religious folks (and I understand your points as I used to be a christian pastor myself. My question is this. if you believe that marriage truly is simply a religious institution, then what you believe is that God at marriage takes the two fleshes and makes them one "What God has joined together let no man put asunder" correct? So, only God can really truly "marry " people in your minds (which is why you say marriage is only religious I would imagine),right? So here is my question. If only God can marry people then why do you care whether lesbians or gays call themselves "married" Surely, God is not actually marrying them and making them one flesh if God does not not recognize their union. If you think they are not truly married in Gods eyes then let them have their fun and "pretend" (at least in your eyes) for now and if we all one day stand before God and find out that they really weren't married, then oh well what harm has really been done? When I work with tools I let my kids pretend with fake hammers that they are building as well and it makes them happy, but I know deep down that they really aren't building anything. Now just because they say they are building something it does not threaten me and what I am building, because I am the adult and I know the truth. If you truly believe you are right and that gays and lesbians are wrong then why not just be content in your "rightness' and let them "play" at marriage and be happy, and you can sit there content and smug in the fact that you are the one who is really married in God's eyes (supposedly).