In Germany, you must get "married" at the "Rathaus" (city hall) first before you can get married in the church.
There might be something to learn from this and a saving grace for everyone involved in the Gay Marriage issue in the United States.
First off, we want to make a clear distinction between church and state. The state is to uphold the law; the Church is for the soul. That being said, "marriage" is a concept that is more in the realm of religion. Sure, you are declaring your love for each other. Sure, you want everyone to know how you feel about each other. Love, love, hugs, hugs, doves, and cake, all based in pagan rituals of old.
The government however, when it comes down to it, isn't concerned with how people may "feel" about each other. What government is more concerned with is death and taxes, and all the income that may come in-between. What really affects the federal and state governments is the issue of inheritance, money, property, and any other legalities involved. The state doesn't have time to deal with these emotions of "love you to the day we die," but it does have the right to regulate what happens when partnerships fall apart. If anything, the more people that get married, the greater the potential for the government to make money in licensing fees and the less time can be spent in court over issues of "love."
Looking at it from this perspective, it makes it all quite simple. The idea of marriage should be stricken from the federal and state governments. Marriage carries on too many religious overtones. The idea of "civil unions" is a valid one however. A civil union can be defined quite easily as that there no question of God when deciding what is legal and what is not legal.