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Gay marriage: The Supreme Court's possible rulings

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Gay marriage: The Supreme Court's possible rulings

Leave it to San Francisco to advance what's likely to be one of the most contentious cases facing the Supreme Court in decades, with California's Proposition 8 heading to the nation's top court on Tuesday carrying activists' magic question: are gay marriage bans unconstitutional? Yes or no? 

Needless to say, Supreme Court justices will not be consulting magic 8 balls when it comes to Proposition 8 — they are busy hearing arguments in what could be a landmark ruling on gay rights in America.

Basically, Proposition 8 stands for "banning gay marriage in California." Here's how the voter initiative leap-frogged its way to Washington: Declaring marriage to be only between a man and a woman, Proposition 8 won approval in California five years ago but was challenged in a San Francisco court by two same-sex couples. The case went up a notch to the Supreme Court, and now, it has come to represent the entire nation's varying efforts to legalize or prohibit gay marriage. 

How's all this going to play out? Good question. Will Proposition 8 give gay rights activists their magic 8 ball "yes, banning gay marriage is unconstitutional" answer?

Well, as it happens, the decision from the nation's top court might not be and white. Likely options: 

1) Most exciting: The justices could rule that gay marriage bans enacted by the states do indeed violate a fundamental right to marriage and unfairly discriminate against gays and lesbians, setting the stage for legalizing gay marriage nationwide, according to the Associated Press

But that doesn't seem likely, NBC News said Tuesday. 

2) Less exciting: Justices may rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 but limit the decision to California, thereby allowing other US states to continue to decide unilaterally on the issue, said Reuters. This would pretty much maintain the status quo. Thirty states have banned gay marriage, while nine states have legalized civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. (California has done both.)

3) Even less exciting: Another option for the justicies is dealing with Proposition 8 on less sweeping grounds, said AP, for example by ruling on the way the voter initiative was handled at the state court level in a decision that would, again, only matter in California. 

4) Totally boring: Or they could opt out completely by deciding not to rule due to "procedural complexities" — more on that here — a move that would send the case right back to San Francisco. 

But boring outcomes are not what's being debated on social media:

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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