Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.
So the federal government would recognize civil same-sex unions, but would only recognize state level civil unions on the condition that religious conscience protections are in place. In other words, only if religious organizations get to retain the right to discriminate against civil same-sex unions will such unions be recognized at the state level by the U.S. government.
What I like about this idea is that it makes a rigorous respect for religious freedom the condition for granting gays and lesbians their legal rights, so that the freedoms and protections of both groups are tied together. Furthermore, if there were significant gay support for such a proposal, it would undercut the religious right's claim that the sole political agenda of the majority of gays is to trash the rights of Christians. This is the lie that helped get Prop. 8 passed here in California. Wouldn't it be nice to put that lie to rest?