Advocates of gay marriage have won their first victory in federal court in Texas as U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks declined a request by the state to consolidate three separate cases challenging the state's 2005 Constitutional Amendment banning the practice in the state, 1200 WOAI news reports.


  "Our fear was consolidation would slow down the process," said Neal Lane, the lawyer for two same sex couples who have filed their case in federal court in Austin.


  Lane says that case is still set to begin with preliminary hearings before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in February in San Antonio.


  Sparks says the other two trials will be combined in Austin this coming fall.


  "We believe everyone in Texas, all people, will have the same rights to marry in Texas," Lane said.


  The case which will come before the court in San Antonio next month calls for gay marriages to be legally performed in Texas, and for Texas to be required to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.


  The U.S. Supreme Court recently placed on hold a federal court ruling in Utah which allowed same sex marriage in that state, indicating that eventually, the issue will be decided by the entire court.


  But in the Windsor decision last summer, the court indicated that it is leaning toward accepting gay marriage across the country.


  The 2005 Texas Constitutional Amendment restricts marriage to one man and one woman only.  Opponents of that Amendment, which passed with 76% of the vote, say times have changed in the last nine years, and Texas, like other states, are moving toward allowing gay marriage.