The institution of marriage (the religious or socially sanctioned union between a woman and a man) apparently existed before the beginning of recorded history. It's also safe to say that many religious ceremonies have used the term in this sense for ages.
I think the problem is the word "marriage" itself. "Marriage" is of course associated with that long lived traditional definition. That definition is fixed tightly to the old word and it interferes with the acceptance of the idea of a gay union being a "marriage" as most people understand it. I've heard several traditionally married couples say, "Our union is not the same as a gay union, it's different, and should not be classified in the same way."
I propose then, that we don't change how we use the word "marriage," that we keep using it the same way.
But I also propose that we simply create a new word for gays and for other variant unions that carries exactly the same civil rights and privileges afforded a male/female union. If you're gay and reading this, don't be upset with the word "variant." Here's what the Free Online Dictionary says about this word:
1. Having or exhibiting variation; differing.
2. Tending or liable to vary; variable.
3. Deviating from a standard, usually by only a slight difference.
So, using the word "variant" as a neutral guide, I propose then, that for all other kinds of unions (e.g. male and male, female and female, three people of varying or the same sex, etc.) we use the new word "varriage."
In summary, when a man and a woman have a socially and religiously accepted union, we still call it a marriage. And, in all other cases, when like gender couples or other variant combinations have a socially and religiously accepted union, we use the new term "varriage."
(Some will object to my use of the word "religiously" in the previous sentence because many religions and some Christian denominations denounce gay unions; but a few Christian denominations already accept gay marriage; therefore my use of the word is not completely inaccurate here.)
As I said earlier, both unions--a varriage or a marriage--would enjoy the same rights and privileges. The only change I'm proposing is that the word "marriage" itself be slightly altered, varied if you will, so as to linguistically note the distinction and make the terms involved more precise. We will call traditional male/female couples married...other unions will be varried.
And should we take this to the next level? Should the term "vedding" be used to describe a varriage ceremony?
I realize I'm probably stepping into something here, but what's your view?