Matthew of A Fearful Symmetry has an interesting solution to the gay marriage issue: get the government out of the marriage business altogether.
His argument makes sense and has occured to me as well. However, it strikes me as problematic from a practical standpoint. Marriage, at least in most states, takes a whole host of issues that would otherwise require litigation off the table, most notably division of property and many probate issues. I’m not sure it could be accorded the same legal status if it was left up to churches and whatever secular private organizations would handle it for nonbelievers.
Update (1014): If we’re going to have civil unions that are the legal equivalent of marriage as it now exists from a governmental benefits standpoint, it does create regulatory issues: Who gets to “marry” people? What limitations are going to be placed on the institution? (For example, are multiple simultaneous unions allowed? Can you marry your dog so you can claim it as a dependant?) Either we wind up having the government back to legislating morality–the problem we’re trying to solve here–or we render civil unions meaningless. Or, presumably, we do away with them entirely–but then create the problems I cited originally.
(Hat tip: Chris Lawrence)