Timing of Gay Marriage Ruling No Surprise to Court Watchers

Court observers say they expected big decisions at the end.

Proposition 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami, center, and Jeffrey Zarrillo, second left, confer with attorney Ted Olson, second right, outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 20, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
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For all the media attention and breathless anticipation around the pending Supreme Court decisions on cases impacting gay marriage, there are two groups who are rolling their eyes and aren't surprised at all – the advocates for and against.

[PHOTOS: Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Same-Sex Marriage]

"We've kind of gotten a chuckle out of [the news coverage]," says John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to gay marriage. "It was just silly. There's no doubt in my mind it was going to come out the last week, probably the last day."

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay marriage group, echoes Eastman's sentiment.

"Some of this is kind of artificial anxiety in that we've always thought that it would go down this way, but clearly you have to show up every single day that is a decision day," he says. "It's all come down now to 11 decisions in one day, next Monday, unless they schedule additional decision days. That in and of itself is noteworthy, that they haven't yet announced additional decision days for next week. So we're waiting on pins and needles."

The court is weighing two separate cases affecting gay marriage. One will determine whether or not the federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to gay spouses and allows states to not recognize such marriages, is constitutional. The other concerns a constitutional ban on gay marriage that was approved by voters in California after it had already been deemed legal for a short time.

[READ: GOP Now Sees Gay Marriage as 'Inevitable,' as Democrats Do]

Eastman, who served as a Supreme Court clerk, says the delay has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with logistics.

"They are frantically trying to finish the opinions," he says. "They are proofreading them, they are dealing with justices … they are going back and forth on that and trying to get out the door before the term ends at the end of next week. As soon as an opinion is ready … then it gets released. There is no politicking on the timetable of that."

Court observers say justices could make any number of narrow or broad rulings in the pair of cases, but agree that the recent movement of states to approve gay marriage and relatively rapidly changing public opinion in support of gay marriage will likely have at least a minimal impact on how the court decides. The court has five justices appointed by Republican presidents and four justices appointed by Democratic presidents. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative appointed by President Ronald Reagan and seated in 1988, is considered the key swing vote.

Monday is the last day scheduled day for decisions to be handed down, but more could be scheduled for later in the week.

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