The controversy and legal complications surrounding conflicting same-sex marriage laws in the U.S. could soon be brought to an end. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it has agreed to determine the marriage rights of gays and lesbians across the country. The Court is expected to issue a ruling on whether same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states by June 2015.
The movement supporting legal gay marriage in the U.S. has been gaining momentum in both the social and legal sphere. The acceptance of gay and lesbian marriage received a major boost after the Supreme Court refused to hear multiple appeals in support of same-sex marriage bans in October. Since then, the number of U.S. states in which same-sex marriage is legal has jumped to 36.
Although a majority of states have already amended legislature to recognize and permit same-sex marriage, the discrepancies between various state laws have had numerous legal and social consequences.
“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 Law Group in New Jersey.
For same-sex couples who married in state other than that in which they currently reside, there can be serious complications if their residing state refuses to recognize their marriage. Same-sex couples who do not live in states with legal marriage do not receive the benefits afforded to couples whose marriage is recognized by the state—including the right to same-sex divorce.
“In matters of divorce, a particularly vivid example of what can happen to a same-sex couple living in a state that refuses to recognize gay marriage took place in Florida where 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.”
A refusal to allow same-sex couples to divorce in certain states creates personal distress for those involved and inconveniences the legal system, often leading to appeals and unnecessary courtroom backlogs. Establishing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right would rectify and prevent a number of problems that currently plague the justice system.
As debate surrounding same-sex marriage continues, the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on this important issue will set a historic precedent with immediate implications – regardless of whether the court rules in favor of or against the right to same-sex marriage.