The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether a state can require a man but not a woman to pay alimony.

The issue is whether the distinction is sex discrimination barred by the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Constitution.

The court in an Alabama case. But 11 other states, Maryland and Virginia not among them, have alimony laws similar to Alabama's.

The case developed from the 1974 divorce of William H. and Lillian M. Orr of Auburn. The couple was childless. The terms included by Orr, then earning $26,000 in taxable income, to pay his former wife $1,240 per month, forfeit his interest in their home, pay her divorce lawyer's fees of $3,500 and premiums on $108,000 in life insurance policies for which she is the beneficiary, and let her keep a 1973 Chevrolet Corvette. She now lives in Opelika.

Orr, noe president of Orrox Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., was $3,312 in arrears in August 1976. After being held in contempt, he challenged the constitutionality of the Alabama law under which the divorce decree and alimoney settlement were entered. He lost in state courts.

The court took other actions: MIRANDA RIGHTS

The justices agreed to decide whether an intoxicated man can waive his constitutional privelege against self-incrimination "knowingly and intelligently," as required by the court in its so-called Miranda decision in 1966.

The case involves the arrest of Charles F. White after an auto accident in Ashfield, Mass., in 1975. POlice Chief Walter Zalenski, noting evidence of intoxication, read him Miranda warnings - that he had a right to be silent and to consel - arrested him, and drove him to a state police barracks.

There, Trooper Frederick Taliaferro provided coins for a telephone call. White dropped them several times. He was so drunk "he didn't know what he was doing," Taliaferro said later.

After advising White of his Miranda rights, the tropper told him that if he refused to take a breath test for alcohol, his driver's permit would be suspended for 90 days. White took the test, which created a legal presumption that he was intoxicated.

Taliaferro found marijuana cigarette in White's shirt pocket. White acknowledge that he had some marijuana in his car. The trooper then prepared an affidavit for a search warrant after giving Miranda warinigs once more.

A magistrate issued a warrant, Taliaferro then opened the locked trunk of the car where he found a locked strongbox. It contained $3,195 and a substantial quantity of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and heroin.

At trial, White moved for suppression of the siezed controlled substances on the ground they were evidence siezed without a knowing and intelligent waiver of the privelige against self-incrimination.

The trial judge disagreed. White was convicted of pessession of illegal controlled substances and was sentenced to three concurrent terms of five to seven years.

The state's highest court reversed. It's decision will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in the term starting in October. OBSCENITY

The court voted 6 to 3 and let stand a decision that when allegedly obscene materials are imported, the community whose standards are to be applied in evaluating their eligibility for constitutional protection will be those not of the destination, but of the port of entry.

The case involved Bruce Long, who was a member of an Advisory Committee on Community Standards in Lancaster, Pa., that recommended an end to all restrictions on pornography except where children were involved.

In 1975, a friend in Germany mailed an unsolicited, sexual explicit pamphlet to Long. Customs agents in New York intercepted it. Long decided to fight, saying the standards of his hometown in Pennsylvania, not New York, should control. A trial judge agreed. With an expression of regret, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it had to rule for the government.