In regard to the issue of same-sex marriage, there are really only two defining aspects to the core discussion, and which of these two you choose to focus upon will ultimately determine your final position, regardless of religious or political affiliation. Religion holds far less significance in this debate than is popularly portrayed by the media. The essence of this controversy is philosophical, not religious.
The first consideration is that, in accepting same-sex marriage, we must of necessity be willing to re-define something that has a long tradition in many human cultures. Traditionally, marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman, and in that traditional definition, the biological difference of the two sexes figures prominently. The wider significance of the traditional definition is that is also impossible for two people of the same sex to conceive a child as a direct, biological result of their relationship. While it is true that, like heterosexuals who cannot conceive, they may adopt, or be artificially inseminated, they can never parent their own natural children in the normal sense.
While this does not preclude them from being good parents, this salient fact, downplayed by those in favor of same sex marriage, is critically important for society and the normal development of children in general. Biology does make a primary difference in all relationships, and it cannot be erased. The definition of traditional marriage is primarily dependent upon biological difference, not upon sexual preference, or even upon the law itself. A law cannot erase any of the natural consequences of biological difference. It is powerless to do so. It will always be powerless to do so. Even in the case of heterosexual adoption, the innate, natural order has been disturbed. This is clearly evidenced by the sometimes vibrant interest that adopted children have in meeting their biological parents, despite the fact that their adopted relationship has been good and sufficient.
The second consideration, and the one commonly pursued by proponents of same-sex marriage is the question of the violation of their "civil rights," these "rights" being primarily understood as those that pertain to taxes, estate law, rights of survorship, medical directives and that host of other considerations that may affect domestic partners. This is a legitimate concern for lifelong partners who are in committed relationships, regardless of their sex. It is important, and it should not be dismissed.
One's final stand and opinion on this subject then, ultimately comes down to the focal point of the argument, and that is simply this: What is more important, the fundamental, biological difference of the partners, and their ability to procreate offspring in a natural manner, and then raise them in a natural manner of progression, or the preservation of the "civil rights" of same-sex partners who cannot meet the natural biological criteria?
Contrary to fuzzy public opinion, this is a real and total dichotomy — these two points cannot be harmonized in any meaningful way. They never will be. Pretending to harmonize them by re-definition of marriage will not remove the dichotomy. In fact, it will strengthen it by calling attention to the new symbolic confusion that is now being created about what constitutes a "family." This confusion is growing, and its tacit acceptance has provided little to no societal benefit at all.
One of the sad and critically destructive forces in modern thinking is the idea that all nature is totally malleable simply because we now realize a greater scientific ability to alter matter. This has given postmodernist philosophers a new hubris, based in a visibly materialist/legalist mentality, and they in turn have promoted the idea that man can do anything, thus seemingly destroying the idea that there is even a natural law at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Natural laws govern many everyday occurrences, and have always done so. They continue to do so.
Is marriage in fact a "civil right"? Most people would probably say yes. Is the re-definition of traditional marriage warranted in order to preserve the "civil rights" of same sex couples? There are still many, many people in America who will answer no to this question, and they have in fact done so in many previous state referendums. And the reason that they will continue to say no is not because they are all bigoted against gays and lesbians but because many sincerely believe that biological procreation was designed the way it is for a specific reason. And that reason is to preserve the primary continuity of the natural family and its role in the formation of society and as a foundational principle in societal development and the natural evolution of personal identity.
It is clear by now to anyone who has observed this controversy that proponents of same sex marriage are more interested in the re-definition of marriage than they are in the attainment of marital normalcy as regards the law. The law could easily have been changed nationally a long time ago to allow these rights as "civil unions" without disturbing the traditional definition of marriage. Many parties would have been satisfied by such a compromise, had not proponents denied the primary biological relationship questions by couching every argument as one of bias regarding their "civil rights." The indiscriminate hurling of bigotry charges will simply not work with this question. In fact, it does not work on the majority of thinking people.
It works quite well indeed, with those who are unable to make precise philosophical distinctions, and our nation, in its declining ability to exercise critical thinking skills, is filling up our ranks with such people.
In the end, there is no such thing as "civil marriage" — there is simply marriage, nothing else. Trying to dichotomize marriage into civil and religious forms is nothing more than an exercise in semantics. Unless one can find a way to magically erase inherent biological differences and make them equivalent, the controversy will go on endlessly. This is precisely why this will never be settled, because the final settlement of it would require the contradiction of innate, observable reality, and that is something that rational people are simply never willing to do. There are some differences that can never be reconciled, and America must learn this lesson if civility is ever again to grace our land. The role and function of law cannot change those natural things that are self evident. It may try-but the underlying realities will remain the same.
What man do you know who has ever really been a mother? What woman do you know who has ever really been a father? As I have always said, it's about the definition. Words point to reality. How we use them is critically important. We are playing with primal fire as if it is silly putty.