This is an attempt to remove religion from marriage in such a way that it is fair to everyone, allowing for any manner of contractual relationships. Some of the issues that arise with no longer recognizing the traditional marriage as part of society have been brought up. I do not necessarily advocate this as the proper method for breaking the barriers, but it is a possible solution.
It is true that marriage as it is defined in American society and legal system discriminates against same sex and other non-traditional relationships. To solve this issue, there should be a divorce (pardon the pun) of government and the predominantly religious institution of marriage.
All people may have on record the list of people that may be allowed to see them while they are incapacitated. No one on this list means no one can see you. This list would be protected by doctor-patient confidentiality.
There shall be no tax breaks for people in a relationship. This will likely lead to an increase in taxes of people who currently file jointly. Dependents for the purpose of joint filings may be split between two people. While this may potentially discriminate against polygamous relationships, this is necessary to reduce potential abuse of tax codes and excessive paperwork.
Supply and demand will govern the existing system. If one wishes to have a plan that covers more than oneself, find it. If there is a demand, the system should find a coverage. It may be more than 'normal' (single person coverage), but it will exist.
The will dictates. In the absence of a will, the eldest member of the immediate blood relationship shall handle distribution. Lack of a blood relation will result in any disputes handled by the courts. Adoption of a minor dependant will constitute a blood relation.
Should two people wish to enter a binding relationship such that existing laws (such as adultery) may be prosecuted as a breach of contract they may do so. Multi person contracts have no such automatic protection. Breaking the contract shall follow through the existing divorce proceedings. All parties to enter a government recognized contract must be 21 or have parental consent. This contract shall have no other value recognized by the government beyond its being a contract.
Unless otherwise stated in the contract, breaking the contract shall result in equal distribution of existing assets. All members of the contract shall put forth equal percentage of net income to the support of any dependants. As the contract does not imply financial obligations, there shall be no alimony payments unless stated elsewhere.
Immigration contracts must endure for 5 years before citizenship is awarded. Each native born citizen has 1/10th an immigration contract. This is awarded at his or her 18th birthday. The contract-ett may be bought or sold or otherwise exchanged. 10 contract-etts must be obtained to initiate an immigration contract. If the contract is broken before the 5 years, all contract-etts are null and void.
It has been posed by many to alter the definition of marriage rather than trying to change how the government recognizes them. Unfortunately, there have been initiatives that have been placed on ballots and highly disputed. One such example came up in California two years ago (March 7, 2000) as CA Prop 22. If passed it would add fourteen words to section 308 of the California Family Code:
Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
Prior to this, California recognized marriages performed in other states. This proposition was a response to the Vermont proposal to allow same-sex marriages allowing California residents to travel to Vermont get married, and return to California claiming marriage benefits.
Prior to this (September 21, 1996) the Defense of Marriage Act was signed at the federal level by Bill Clinton. This defined marriage in federal law as the "legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife". It furthermore made it clear that no state is required to recognize same sex marriages (or group marriages if the issue came up) from other states - if the states have laws stating this (at least 30 states do). California Prop 22 passed 61% to 39%.
It should be clear at this point, redefining marriage has already been headed off at the pass (so to speak) by clearly establishing monogamous heterosexual unions as marriage at the federal and in the majority of states. Thus, the suggestions above (meant more as something to think about than as hard and fast rules). These suggestions essentially say "let religion define marriage - the government will have nothing to do with it". Instead, the government (courts and laws) recognize contracts.