This is an addendum to my immediately preceding post regarding marriage.
Many people apparently did not grasp the whole proposal–especially people who said my proposal is already the case.
Every church I know fully recognizes as covenant marriage (marriage of two people in God’s sight) what I am calling civil unions performed by government officials (e.g., justices of the peace). Every church I know still requires a civil marriage license to perform covenant marriages. This may not be written into the churches’ by-laws, but it is still common practice.
I suspect that most mainline Protestant churches in America (all that I know are in this category) automatically recognize as divorced (their covenant marriage dissolved) any couple whose marriage has been dissolved by a court.
We need to think through separation of church and state with regard to marriage in exactly the same way we do with regard to ordination. Imagine we lived in a country where the government ordains people to religious ministry. (This was the case in some European countries until fairly recently. In Sweden, for example, ordination and baptism were as much state matters as church matters. That is no longer the case.)
We believers in separation of church and state would (hopefully) resist that. Why do we continue to accept the state’s decisions about marriage? Perhaps the current controversy over “gay marriage” can help us disentangle religion and government.