So, rather than discuss the biblical definition of marriage, I'd like to point out something more subtle. For example, does a Hindu marriage ceremony involving all kinds of idols and other gods fall within the boundaries of a "biblical marriage" if it's between a man and woman? There's a contextual discrepancy in how the word "marriage" is used in our culture, and addressing this issue first will illuminate the subject.
What exactly is a marriage?All definitions that I am aware of maintain that marriage is a state of obligation between (at least) two parties and which is codified by a ceremony of some kind. There are many absurd examples of people marrying animals or inanimate objects, and other non-standard examples include polygamy and arranged (sometimes forced) marriages. Marriage may happen before the God of the bible, the Allah of the Quran, the pantheon of Hindu gods, the spirits of nature as imagined by Wiccans, or simply no god at all. There's no standard as to what vows or responsibilities are involved - vows taken by two atheists in front of a judge may have very different stipulations than those taken by Christians. Are all marriages created equal?
Let's divert to a short, ridiculous thought experiment. While we balk at the idea of someone marrying their cat, what makes that absurd? After all, they can have a wedding ceremony with vows (and meows, as the case may be) along with whatever other rituals they wish to include. Imagine if all of their friends agreed that this person and their cat share a deep emotional (even spiritual) bond and agreed that the owner and kitty are "married." Further yet, imagine that they lived in a country where such a union can be granted a license which is indistinguishable from the license granted to two humans stating they are married and have all the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. Again I ask, what exactly is a marriage?
A matter of authorityThe distinction, I believe, lies in answering the question of what authority must recognize a marriage in order for it to exist. If someone disagrees with the validity of your marriage, is it still a marriage? That's what the gay marriage debate in America is all about: people want a rubber stamp from the government so that no one can say "you're not married" - after all, the government is the highest authority in the land. When expressed in these terms, I think that many people would disagree with me (the phrase "rubber stamp" may strike a few nerves); however, government sanctioning of and benefits for marriage between homosexuals are exactly what's at stake. No piece of legislation is going to cause anyone who doesn't accept gay marriage to change their views on the subject.
Let's go back to a question that I posed at the beginning of the article: is a marriage between a man and a woman under anti-biblical circumstances, such as between atheists or pagans, still considered a marriage biblically? It's certainly considered a marriage by human governments, and this is my central point: "marriage" in today's world is simply a word that we use to define a commitment accompanied by a ceremony. It does not necessarily refer to the covenant-style relationship between a man, a woman, and God as defined in the bible; otherwise, Christians everywhere would be decrying Hindu marriage, Muslim marriage, atheist marriage, and all other marriages that do not include a covenant relationship with the God of the bible.
What does the Ultimate Authority think of non-Christian marriages?Does God recognize marriages between a man and a woman when He is either left out of it or replaced by false gods? This is not a question that the bible addresses directly - perhaps something can be gleaned from Paul's instructions to those who were being converted or who are married to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 7), but I don't have any coherent thoughts to offer on the matter at present.
What I can offer is that God hates it when people do not acknowledge Him as the only and true God, and people who are married before false gods or no god have bigger issues to worry about than whether God recognizes their marriage. Likewise, homosexuals have bigger things to worry about than whether God recognizes their marriage; although, in their case, the marriage itself is part of the problem:
Leviticus 20:13It doesn't get much more clear than that: homosexuality is sin, punishable by death just like all other sin.
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
So what should the government do, if anything?For the specific case of homosexual marriage in America, my view is that the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all. If the government revoked mine and my wife's marriage license for some reason, does that mean we are no longer married? So far as the state is concerned, perhaps, but the government's opinion changes nothing about our relationship. We are married before God and each other, and our personal commitment is what we value - it's not something that any human being can deny us.
Therefore, I propose that the best course of action for the government is to stop putting their rubber stamp on heterosexual marriages - it's none of their business. Any inequality or injustice brought on by the lack of state recognition for gay marriage is a direct result of the fact that the government is involved in marriage to begin with. If you truly want to "get the government out of the bedroom," then the only solution is to literally get the government out of the bedroom - licensing for gay marriages simply lets the government into the bedroom of more people.