There is so much emotional and religious baggage associated with the word "marriage".
The religious right likes to harp on the idea that The Bible defines marriage as the sacred union between "one man and one woman". I defy anyone to find a passage from the Old Testament or a "quote" from Jesus that makes this distinction.
Let me save you some time. There aren't any.
There are some scattered references in the latter books of the New Testament that weigh in on the subject of marriage. But the Old Testament Jehovah and the New Testament Jesus never mention the subject.
In fact, the patriarch of monotheism, Abram/Abraham, the source of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, built his fortune pimping out his wife to various wealthy landed men in exchange for real estate, only to later expose the fraud, keep the land, and move on to the next sucker.
He was a con man who treatd his wife like a whore for his own profit! This was who Yahweh picked as "his main guy". His "chosen one". Was that a marriage between "one man and one woman"?
I seem to recall other Old Testament patriarchs having multiple wives, concubines and slaves with whom they had offspring. Were those arrangements marriages between "one man and one woman"?
Christians like to point out that the arrival and crucifixion of Jesus was like a renegotiation of the contract between God and man.
O.K., fine. Find me one quote...just one...anywhere in the New Testament, where Jesus himself defines the terms of marriage. He doesn't. There aren't any.
We need to separate legal rights from sacred sanction without creating 2nd class citizens.
Marriage, as an institution, is not defined by religious text. It is defined by legal text and precedent.
THE XO PLAN
States should define "marriage" as a secular, legal, bonding between two consenting, unrelated (outside of a defined parameter) adults that endows both parties with all of the traditional and legal privileges of any other marriage sanctioned by the state.
It should be a marriage. Not a civil union, but an actual marriage in the eyes and nomenclature of the state and just as binding by state and federal law as any other marriage. The defining certification is made by a civil official.
A separate ceremony, call it a Sacred Marriage or Eternal Bonding...whatever, may at the discretion of a religious institution be performed. It should carry all of the same legal weight and privileges as a civil ceremony. Religious institutions are completely free to make their own determinations based on their own scriptures and dogma as to what sort of unions they will grant their blessings. This determination may not, under any circumstances, be usurped by any government.
The secular laws determine what constitutes a marriage in legal terms and, by federal law, must be recognized and respected in all states. These laws must include both civil and sacred ceremonies.
The individual religious communities are free to define what they consider to be a valid marriage according to their standards and may impose whatever restrictions (giving communion, baptism, excommunication, etc.) as they see fit.
A couple may choose to have just a civil marriage, just a religious marriage, or both.
But they would all be equally binding marriages under state and federal law and they would all have the exact same benefits and privileges to both parties.
When it comes to determining rights in a court of law, it wouldn't matter if they had a secular marriage, a religous marriage, or both. All would be equal in the eyes of the law.
How could this possibly hurt or pose a threat to anyone?