TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge took steps Wednesday to speed up a ruling on the remaining legal issues in a lawsuit challenging Kansas' ban on gay marriage.

Opposing attorneys must narrow factual disputes and propose a schedule at the end of January for a hearing, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree said. Both the state's attorneys and lawyers challenging ban said they want to expedite the case.

During a brief hearing, Crabtree said it's in the parties' best interest for him to issue a final ruling quickly so that an appeal can go forward.

"I won't be the last judicial officer to consider the case," Crabtree said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could rule by late June in a separate case on whether state bans on gay marriage are constitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in October for couples denied marriage licenses in Douglas and Sedgwick counties. The nation's high court blocked Kansas from enforcing its ban while the case is heard, clearing the way for same-sex marriages in parts of the state.

The ACLU last month expanded the lawsuit to force the state to recognize the resulting gay marriages so that the couples can file joint income tax returns, obtain coverage for a spouse in the health plan for state employees and change a spouse's last name on a driver's license.

Kansas law has long recognized only marriages between one man and one woman. Voters in 2005 overwhelmingly added a provision in the Kansas Constitution banning gay marriage.


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