ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Historic arguments before the Supreme Court Tuesday involving the rights of same-sex couples to marry. The high court can rule in a number of different ways that could dramatically affect federal law. Or not.

There are several different rulings the Supreme Court could make, which means it’s time for a Reality Check.

So we know the court has two cases — One is a challenge to California Proposition 8, a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The other is a challenge to the 1996 DOMA law,
which bans federal benefits to same sex couples.

Today it’s all about Prop 8.

You’d think it’s simple.

1. Uphold Prop 8

It’s possible the court could uphold Proposition 8,
which would not only uphold a gay marriage ban
in California, it would tell 40 other states their gay marriage bans are legal.

2. Strike Down Prop 8

The court could strike down Prop 8, which could mean gay marriage bans in all the states are unconstitutional.

3. California Only: Strike Down Prop 8

But it’s possible the court could invalidate Proposition 8 for California only, since voters banned gay marriage after the state had already legalized it.

3. Do Nothing

It’s a legal technicality. But remember, the state of California is not defending its same-sex marriage ban in court. The case is being argued. That’s why the defense is by the group that put it on the ballot in the first place.

The court could rule the group does not have the legal right to go to court.

There’s one more possibility.

Some legal experts believe the high court could come up with a middle ground that applies only to California and other states that offer gay and straight couples legal beneifts through civil unions.

That might be unsatisfying to both sides, because it might not asnwer the question: can a state ban gay marriage?

Public opinion polls have moved from opposition to support for gay marriage.

But it’s not clear that will have any effect on the justices’ decision.

In public comments, the justices often say they are not influenced by public opinion. But in a case like this, some court watchers say justices are aware that gay marriage is at the center of a loud national debate.

And it’s too early for the high court to get involved.

Pat Kessler