The first thing people need to recognize is that marriage is not controlled by the Federal Government. The only Federal consideration towards marriage is the Defense of Marriage Act which my solution would remove any need to continue arguments over whether or not to repeal the Act. Currently, marriage licenses are dealt with locally by states, counties, cities, and even in some localities, small towns have their own rules. The main reason for the local governments getting involved with marriage in the first place was in order to generate revenue as when these licensing requirements were originally put in place, religious institutions performed virtually all marriages. The solution is to simply remove the state from the marriage business. Instead, let the state operate in a business which they are more suited to perform, civil unions. Leave marriage to the religious institutions. People wishing to be married would still need to get a civil union license from the government and then the marriage license would be granted by the religious institution in which they decide to hold the actual marriage ceremony. What could be simpler?
Through this system, the state would be allowed to grant civil union licenses to whomever they decide make a legal union without affecting the religious institution of marriage. The main complaint towards gay marriage is that it violates the ideal of marriage as is defined in religious texts and traditions. Remove the act of marrying people from the state while allowing the state to issue a required civil union for those wishing to be married and continuing to receive their monetary intake and any other requirements, such as blood tests, proof of age, genealogy or any historical records. This would lead to a situation where the state can set one standard for civil unions without affecting the religious institutions which would individually set their own definitions on what makes a viable couple for marriage.
I foresee a completely new problem which I will promise you will be the next battlefield for the gay marriage debate. As soon as you allow each religious institution to determine what exactly constitutes a marriageable combination, there will be controversy. There will be churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions who will allow marriages which other institutions will object. But, at least that will simply generate intra-religious controversies and as long as these disagreements remain within the law, the state need not get involved. Again, my bet is that somehow somebody or group will find some pretense to involve the state, even if it is simply by taking some trumped up insanity which would require the state to intervene in a private religious institution and their definition of marriage. Some people simply insist on making the whole world meet their definitions of the most peculiar things, and marriage has proven to be extremely high on the insist upon meter.
There is actually a simple lesson which our society could learn from the whole gay marriage and the state controversy. The libertarians actually are not all completely out of touch crazy. There actually are some things which, plain and simple, are best left to the individual or private institutions. Marriage is most definitely high on that list. So, how about we just allow the governments, at whichever level is necessitated, give civil licenses which would allow for all the legalities such as insurance coverage, hospital visitation, inheritance, tax deduction, and anything else which is currently associated with a state marriage license. Then we allow the religious institutions decide what they wish to call marriage. Sometime the best solutions are the best solutions, and any solution that limits government is a good solution. I would be just fine to leave the state completely out of the argument, but once government’s grubby paws grab something, it is close to impossible to wrest it from their grasp.