The distinction between civil and religious marriage contracts solve many of the problems raised by opponents of same-sex marriage concerned for their religious freedom rights. To receive federal and state benefits assigned to married couples, a civil marriage must be obtained. It is a contract entered into by two parties which is legally recognized by the government. The government employees who issue and certify these licenses are representatives of the state and must comply with all public laws, including anti-discrimination laws.
Marriage also carries religious significance for many Americans, and they enter into a religious marriage as well, regulated and officiated by their own faith leaders and not legally recognizable by the government. The requirements to obtain a religious marriage are set by each religious community.
The distinction between civil and religious marriage resolves the debate on same-sex marriage because the government cannot endorse a particular religious belief, such as marriage should be between a man and a woman; and the government cannot force a house of worship to grant or perform a religious marriage, as a violation of their Free Exercise rights.
POLICY RECOMMENDATION: Same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights to civil marriage as opposite sex couples. Laws prohibiting this are religiously motivated discrimination which is improper and should be overturned.