With gay marriage being the hot topic of the day in the Bay State, I figure I'd throw my two cents on the table. I'll try
to be brief.
First, I feel there needs to be a distinction made between marriage, as defined by the state, and holy matrimony, as defined by various religious denominations. The State has no authority to tell any church who they can and cannot marry in a religious rite of matrimony. However, for a married couple to obtain the benefits afforded them by the state, it is necessary that the state recognize the civil marriage of the two people.
All marriages recognized by the State are civil marriages. Many of these marriages take place in a religious setting, and are treated as a covenant between the couple being married and their God. The State recognizes freedom of religion, and as long as these people fill out the required paperwork, and pay their license fee, the state will recognize them as married. The same can be said for a couple married by a judge, or other duly appointed representative of the State.
The term "civil union" has been created as a way to extend marriage rights and benefits to same-sex couples, without offending those who hold the "marriage" as a sacred, religious institution. As far as I'm concerned, the word "marriage" means the bringing together of two entities to create a new "whole entity". Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, are by that definition, the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter.
The distinction, again, should be between "civil marriage" and "holy matrimony".
My personal belief is that the law should allow for same-sex civil marriages, given the same conditions applied to civil marriage for heterosexual couples. Furthermore, if a church takes the stand that the concept gay marriage goes against their core beliefs, it is entirely acceptable for that church to refuse to perform the rite of holy matrimony for same-sex couples. Should a church believe that gay couples are entitled to be married in the eyes of, and with the blessing of God, then that church should be free to perform the ceremony to sanctify the civil marriage granted to them by the State.
My take on the whole issue as it's being played out in the Bay State is:
I think the pro-gay marriage advocates are shooting themselves in the feet with their "all or nothing" approach. As the gun-control lobby has learned, the best way to achieve your goal is to proceed with baby steps, making incremental changes to the law and public opinion. Dianne Feinstein and her ilk realized they would never be successful at taking all the guns away from the American public in one fell swoop, so they began their long campaign of gun restrictions, licensing, and registration - all part of their grand scheme to deprive the citizenry of their 2nd Amendment rights. As much as it pains me to say, they have been VERY successful so far.
There is also an on-going debate on whether gay marriage is strictly a civil-rights issue that shouldn't even be put to a vote. If this is the case, then it should be clear that the resolution of this issue isn't going to happen overnight, or even this year. The civil-rights movement in this country, as far as racial equality is concerned, is a battle that's been fought for decades, and still hasn't come to an end.
Baby steps. By steering the issue in the direction of a proposed constitutional amendment, both sides are now facing the prospect of total dissatisfaction with the end result. A smarter tactic would have been to propose "civil union" legislation, similar to Vermont's. I know it wouldn't necessarily address EVERY benefit afforded to heterosexual couples, or provide for recognition by other states, but it would be a step in the right direction.