Marriage predates reliable recorded history and has been part of the church since the beginning of recorded history. This is one of the points that some have when opposing same sex marriage. They think marriage is and should only be reserved for the union between a man and a woman. Which I am fine with but many same sex couples are opposed to being merely recognized as 'civil unions'.
The daughter of the republican presidential nominee from the campaign in 2008, Meghan McCain, has been very outspoken about and trying to rally support for same sex marriage within the Republican party. However, in my opinion there are many more pressing issues than that to be more concerned about. So I submit my idea to the web via my blog for the consideration of anyone who wishes to read it.
The founding fathers very clearly wanted a nation that would take in and embrace people of all religions. But they also used religious underpinnings when founding this nation that we call the United States of America. However, since that time we have had a great movement to separate Church and State. The merits and results of which can be hotly debated on both sides as to the affect it has had on this country.
Since the nation was founded, marriages have been recognized by the church and the state. When you decide to marry your loved one, you have to go to the court house and apply for a marriage certificate, yada yada yada. But since marriage is very much a religious union between two people and we want to separate Church and State, they why don't we rename the entire institution where it applies to the State as being a Civil Union.
Let this sink in. When you go to the court house, you apply for a Civil Union Certificate. Now if you want to have your 'Civil Union' recognized by the Church, you would then plan to have a Marriage ceremony, which is where the Church recognizes and blesses your 'Civil Union' in the eyes of your Church to be a Marriage.
Another pause to let this sink in as well.
This continues with the whole thing of separation of church and state as well as opening up for the potential embrace of Same-Sex Civil Unions, because everyone is joined in Civil Union according to the State and only the Church can recognize a Union as being a Marriage.
Not only does this help with the whole same-sex marriage/civil union thing but it also protects the sancity of marriage for the church. But it does more than that. The terms divorce and annulment are many times used interchangably by the different states in the union. Some recognize the dissolution of a marriage as a divorce while others recognize it as an annulment.
However, an annulment is another church term. An annulment means that a marriage is consider null and void and it works retroactively. Meaning that the marriage never existed which, in the case of Catholics for example, allows them to be remarried. Since marriage in their eyes and in the eyes of most churches is a lifelong contract between two willing parties that is ratified by Devine sanction. Which means that a valid ceremony/contract must be performed and that both parties must enter into it willingly. If any of these conditions lack, then the marriage is not contracted, Divine sanction is not obtained, and there is, in the eyes of the church, no marriage.
Thus a divorce would be what you had to do in order to dissolve your union in the eyes of the state. Then in the case of a church santioned marriage, you would need to seek to have it annulled in the eyes of the church in order for it to no longer be a valid marriage.
So in summary, Civil Union would be what the State and Federal levels of the government would recognize along with the dissolution of such being a Divorce. The church would recognize Marriages however the church sees fit (be in allowing same-sex marriages or not) as well as a Marriage being considered null and void being called an Annulment.
This will make thing easier and it will also appease both sides of the argument about same-sex marriage/civil unions.