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Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
In this March 27, 2013, file photo a woman holds up a sign that reads "REPEAL DOMA," the Defense of Marriage Act in front of a group from Alabama, clasped in prayer in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court hears arguments on gay marriage.

WASHINGTON — The waiting is almost over.

Sometime in the next week or so, the Supreme Court will announce the outcomes in cases on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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The federal law, known by the shorthand DOMA, defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and therefore keeps legally married gay Americans from collecting a range of federal benefits that generally are available to married people.

The justices have a lengthy menu of options from which to choose. They might come out with rulings that are simple, clear and dramatic. Or they might opt for something narrow and legalistic.

The court could strike down dozens of state laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples, but it also could uphold gay marriage bans or say nothing meaningful about the issue at all.

A look at potential outcomes for the Proposition 8 case and the DOMA case