To have the question disposed of and dispensed with, many Republicans say, could make their opinions on the matter largely moot, providing a political escape hatch that gives them an excuse to essentially say: “It’s been settled. Let’s move on.”

For many in the party who would rather not be talking about same-sex marriage at all, this would be an outcome they could find palatable even if the court did recognize constitutional protections for same-sex couples…

“Good luck in a Republican primary saying the Supreme Court has decided the abortion issue and we should move on,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “That’s what you call a nonstarter.”

And yet that is exactly what many Republicans have started to say about same-sex marriage. Few expect the same kind of mass movement to grow out of a decision that declares a constitutional protection to marry, nor do they envision the Republican primary process being dominated by litmus-test questions like the ones candidates perennially face on abortion — “Would you support a constitutional ban?” and “Would you pledge to appoint only justices who would overturn?”