– The news Friday that the Supreme Court will rule whether same-sex couples have the right to marry brought on elation from gays and lesbians who believe the justices will decide in their favor.

But another group also saw a possible reason to celebrate if the court does indeed rule that way: Republicans.

If the high court resolves the issue as expected in June, it could deliver a decision that has the benefit of largely neutralizing a debate that a majority of Americans believe Republicans are on the wrong side of — and well ahead of the party’s 2016 presidential primaries.

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 does recognize constitutional protections for same-sex couples.

The desire to calibrate unremarkable and inoffensive responses shows how the debate over same-sex marriage significantly departs from other major constitutional questions on social issues like abortion.

With the center-right 2016 hopefuls expressing a certain sense of acceptance that same-sex marriage in all 50 states could be a foregone conclusion, there is an opening for socially conservative candidates like Mike Huckabee, of Arkansas, and Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, to make gay rights a wedge.

New York Times