With President Obama declaring today that he has decided to support same sex marriage, it prompted me to finally get my thoughts on the subject down on paper... err, internet.
Basically I see it this way. The United States of America was founded with the separation of Church and State as one of its principles. Marriage has been defined using a religious and classical social view; between a man and a woman. It was with a generous heart that married couples get any benefits, be it tax breaks or other benefits. Think about it. This was to help out families with single incomes, historically, and to my best guess. Having only one income with children, tax help and other benefits made this financially feasible. The economy has shifted, however. Cost of living has gone way up, and one income hasn't really been enough to raise a family. Now both parents have to work. So in the classical sense, these families with two incomes are now cheating the system! In some sort of twisted logic. They are still getting the tax benefits of being married, but they have two incomes so they really don't need it anymore.
In this sense, with the classical definition of marriage according to the US tax law, marriage has already changed. Leave alone any religious definition of marriage at this point, mind you. Religion and the classical social definition lead to the US Laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Religion pretty much condemns homosexuality, according to some interpretations. Religion also condemns eating certain foods during certain times. However, with the separation of Church and State, marriage can be defined in its own, new, context. A Federal context. Religions and their followers are free to keep marriage between a man and a woman, and same sex couples would probably opt to not get married in a religious ceremony, due to the condemnation and overall unchanging view of their lifestyle. While through the government, anyone could marry anyone else.
To really buy into this argument, you have to respect what the founders of this country were trying to accomplish with the separation of Church and State.
This is also pretty easy to imagine when thought about it this way: In this country we have the freedom of religion. I could found a religion tomorrow and be free to practice it, as long as I'm not breaking any federal or state laws. For instance, ritual sacrifice of douchebags would land me in the slammer. With as many religions as there are already, we could have this discussion without making up one. For a quick example, let's look at the interpretation of Sunday being the day of rest and worship for Catholics. I use Catholicism because I am Catholic. If the federal government were to enforce this as a law, it would be illegal to work on Sunday, and it would be illegal for any company to be open on Sunday. While a lot of us have normal 9-5, Monday through Friday jobs (those of us that are lucky enough to have jobs), places that we depend on, specifically government agencies like the police and fire departments, are staffed 24/7. Not to mention hospitals. According to classical Catholic definition, this is an abomination. Maybe slightly exaggerated, but imagine this was just as important as the concept of marriage between a man and a woman. Pick anything else that shows up in the bible or other religious texts and apply it to today. The world has changed. So if a religion were to allow same sex marriage, right now it would be a crime to perform this ceremony, or it would not be recognized by federal and state laws. This due to the classical definition of marriage according to classical religions and their ancient ways.
In a similar light, would we need to make laws for every religion's specific laws. Mormons, according to my limited exposure, don't drink alcohol. The government tried that... I guess what I'm getting at, is there are differences between religious laws and government laws. Yes, it's illegal to murder according to federal laws and religious laws. However, according to federal laws, you could be defending your property and kill an intruder, and go free from prison, but are you condemned to hell in this situation? Are religious laws that specific? Does religion condemn drunk driving? Of course not, since at the inception of most religions, driving wasn't a thing, unless you count chariots. So, would you follow religion as closely on these situations as you do on marriage?
I could get more philosophical about it... what is marriage anyway? I am a married man and in no way look down on marriage. It's a commitment. (I'm not going to talk about the divorce rate, but it is worth a quick mention!) What made people decide that there should be a ceremony that joins a man and a woman for life? There are animals that share one partner for the rest of their lives when they find each other, so since we are highly evolved, it would make sense that humans would come to this conclusion. But that's just staying with the same person for the rest of your life. Marriage seals the deal in a religious and social sense. To record keepers, it's just a piece of paper, less tax returns, kids sometimes...
In many historical instances, religion was tightly integrated with law. Philosophy, the beginning of law, was very much integrated with mystical concepts. Nearly every civilization used their religious beliefs as the foundation of their federal law system. However, our founders made it clear, our laws should be separated.
In conclusion, we should really stick to this separation of Church and State since it works well in other situations. We should allow federal laws to evolve away from their religious underpinnings if society deems necessary. I'm confident that in the future, this will end like other discrimination attempts. I'm confident in the process, and the history of America's evolution beyond (arguable...) social discrimination gives me hope.