Civil unions for all
Although gay marriage is not an issue on which to hang a presidential election, it's worth noting the differences between the Republican and Democratic platforms on that subject.
The Republicans, at their national convention last week, enshrined discrimination as a guiding party principle. Their platform supports denying the civil rights of marriage to gay people and would allow any state to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in others states or countries.
By contrast, the platform adopted by the Democrats at their convention this week states: "We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference."
The Democratic Party has the right idea. Put simply, government should equally enforce laws that allow any two people to enter a partnership with the state and accept the rights and responsibilities of such a partnership.
If calling such a civil union "marriage" bothers religious folks, then let's reserve that term for ceremonies performed and sanctioned by a church or religious group. As the Democratic platform posits, churches and religious entities should be allowed to administer marriage as a sacrament without government interference.
Under this concept, civil unions would become the government-sanctioned joining of two people. Couples, whether two men, two women or one of each gender, would be afforded rights, and entrusted with responsibilities, equally.
Any two people wanting to throw in their lot together and take on the duties and benefits of a legal partnership would buy a license and recite a pledge before a civil servant. If they wanted to be married, they could then go to a clergy person, meet the criteria set by that particular church and be united by deity, according to the rules of that church.
Any church could refuse to marry any couple for any reason. Thus, if the doctrine of a certain sect dictated that two men or two women could not be married in that church, they would either have to find a church that would do the honors or be content with their status as partners in the eyes of the government, equal to opposite-sex couples.
The civil union would be the default partnership; church-sanctioned marriage would be optional.
Government has no business in the debate over what kind of marriage God condones, and churches should stay out of what is essentially a state-sanctioned legal partnership.