Legal experts pointed to two main ways to wiggle out of a definitive ruling on same-sex marriage.

The first: Dismiss the petition as “improvidently granted” — DIGing it — in Supreme Court parlance.

That would amount to a win for the officially stated goals of the challengers to Prop 8 because it would leave in place the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last year striking down the ban. …

The other option is to rule that Prop 8’s defenders had no right to stand in the shoes of California officials who declined to defend the ballot measure in court. …

Ruling that Prop 8’s proponents lacked standing to appeal could produce a messy result. The 9th Circuit’s decision would most likely be nullified and the case would be returned to the district court. Its ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional would presumably stand, but it could end up being limited to only the couple of counties and state officials named as defendants in the lawsuit. That could leave same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in more conservative parts of California with no clear right to get them.