Published: Nov. 29, 2012 Updated: 6:26 p.m.
By BRIAN JOSEPH / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Same-sex marriage could be legal in California by the end of Friday.

Or the legal wrangling over Proposition 8 could continue for several more months — or even longer.

Either way, there’s a sense on both sides of the issue that tomorrow will be a key date in the state’s longstanding debate over gay marriage.

Behind closed doors Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it will review a challenge to Prop. 8, the 2008 state ballot measure that established marriage as between a man and a woman and stripped gays and lesbians of the right to wed in California.

In February, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the initiative. If the Supreme Court decides it doesn’t want to review the case — such an announcement could come as early as Friday afternoon — the 9th Circuit’s ruling will stand.

Officials in San Francisco are bracing for an onslaught of wedding requests, although there’s some disagreement about whether a denial by the Supreme Court will immediately make same-sex marriage legal across the state, or whether further litigation will be required.

Then again, the court could decide that it wants to hear the case — and advocates on both sides of the issue believe it will. In that case, a decision won’t be made until probably June.

There’s also the possibility the court could put off making a decision. Then who knows when we’ll have an answer.

“It’s always a guess what the Supreme Court will do,” says Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law.

Speculation about the justices’ decision went into overdrive this month after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage and voters in Minnesota rejected a measure to ban it. Would the election results sway the justices? If so, how?

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