Over at Classical Values, one of my favorite blogs, they have completely missed the point on this. They take up the issue using a narrow, libertarian analysis where they decide that the government shouldn't meddle in such things. To them it's all about the tiny details of the laws. It's all about licensing.
Well, licensing is, after all, a government restriction. When people speak of marriage as a "right," they really are not speaking of a right to marriage, but a "right" to a marriage license. Yet true rights (such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion) are not -- and by their nature cannot be -- subject to licensing.Emphasis in the original text.
If marriage were treated as a right, it would not be subject to licensing.
Licenses are meaningless outside of the larger context, a context apparently invisible to the libertarians. We're not at war over a right, we're at war over a cultural definition of a word. It's not a trivial one, either. One side wants to erase all differentiation between heterosexual and homosexual unions, the other doesn't. The marriage issue is a part of the deal, not the final goal.
The Boy Scouts have been under attack by the gays because they differentiate. The demonstrations against the churches recently were for the same reason. Anyone who makes a distinction between the two relationships will come under attack. The marriage issue is just one battle in the war.
Once they win the marriage issue, public schools will begin teaching that there is no difference between gay and straight relationships. It's no coincidence that one of the biggest opponents of prop 8 were the teachers. An underlying theme of this teaching will be to tie differentiation of sexual orientation to racial discrimination (this is already their primary theme), thus claiming that most major religions are havens for bigotry.
This is much, much bigger than just what the government does or doesn't do. Put the government aside. Is there a meaningful difference between hetero- and homosexual relationships? Is there a meaningful difference between men and women?