The U.S. Supreme Court says it will decide the marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples by determining whether same-sex marriage should be permitted across all U.S. states.

After ducking the issue in October, the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would decide the marriage rights of gays and lesbians nationwide. The court’s agreement to determine whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in every U.S. state will likely be carried out before the end of its term in June.

Following the Supreme Court’s tacit approval of same-sex marriage in five states by refusing to hear appeals in support of gay marriage bans in October, the number of states that allow same-sex marriage has increased to 36. Currently, 70% of American residents live in states that allow gay marriage. Although many people expect the Supreme Court to permit same-sex marriage nationwide, the only guaranteed outcome is that the court will issue a significant decision on the issue in the near future.

Complications Arising from Existing Same-Sex Marriage Laws & Divorce

Understanding the Supreme Court’s recent announcement requires looking at the current legal complications of same-sex couples living in states that do not recognize the validity of their marriage.

“Driving the Supreme Court’s review is the disparity between states in how they recognize or fail to recognize same-sex marriages among couples who wed in a state where same-sex marriage is legal but reside in one where it is not”, says family lawyer Bari Zell Weinberger of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group in New Jersey.

Although same-sex marriage is currently permitted in a majority of the U.S., the discrepancy between gay marriage laws in different states has caused distress in a number of same-sex divorce cases. Weinberger recalls a “particularly vivid example” of such complications in a recent Florida divorce case. “A same sex couple attempted to divorce, but was denied due to Florida’s same-sex marriage ban,” says Weinberger. “The pair was essentially ‘wed-locked’ until this past December when a deal was finally brokered to grant a divorce in the matter.”

The Importance of a Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

Establishing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right in America would clarify a number of problems that currently plague the U.S. justice system.

“While marriage and divorce laws are governed by each individual state, uniformity in the laws between states can certainly help to lessen confusion,” explains Weinberger. “How the Supreme Court rules on this issue will set an important precedent that may well have implications beyond same-sex marriage.”

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides in its impending ruling on the marital rights of same-sex couples, the outcome will be impactful on the legal system as well as the LGBT community across the U.S..