For Republicans, victory for the pro-marriage side could take a difficult issue and shelve it — a version of the “I personally oppose it, but it’s the law of the land” stand that a number of GOP governors have taken with respect to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

“It could be a savior of the Republican Party because it takes an issue off the table, and they don’t have to pay a price for it,” said one operative.

But what if the outcome isn’t that clear? What if the emerging popular consensus in favor of gay marriage clashes with a still-intact regime of state laws that largely ban same-sex unions?

The possibilities are broad, but there are several outcomes that would muddy the waters, and bring fresh pressure to bear on Obama and other officials.

“A loss in these two cases, I think, is terrible for any person running for office,” said the operative, adding that it will put all candidates on the Democratic side in a bind.

A gray-area outcome — something that is less than perfectly clear about whether gay marriage is legal in the United States — is massively complicated. Obama became the first president to talk about gay rights in an inaugural address earlier this year, and ameliorated some of the concerns in the gay community about his states’-rights position with the administration’s briefs in the Supreme Court cases.