The Church of Scotland has given its support to the ordination of ministers who are in civil partnerships, after a vote at its General Assembly.
Following a consultation with members of the church, delegates at the meeting voted 309 to 182 in favour of the motion.
Members of the General Assembly will vote on Thursday on extending ordination to those in same-sex marriages.
The decision means the Church as a whole will retain its position that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
However, individual congregations are now able to “opt out” of the official position and appoint a minister in a civil partnership.
No individual Church of Scotland congregation can be “coerced” into appointing a minister in a civil partnership, the Co-ordinator of the Principal Clerk’s office said.
The issue of ordaining openly gay clergy has already caused a number of ministers and hundreds of members to leave the denomination.
In 2013 Reverend Dominic Smart of Gilcomston South church in Aberdeen resigned from the Church of Scotland because of its position on appointing openly gay clergy.
He described ordaining gay ministers as a “clear and deliberate move away from the authority of scripture as the word of God and our supreme rule of faith and life”.
In 2009 Scott Rennie, who was living with his gay partner, was appointed to a church in Aberdeen.
Many evangelicals opposed the move, but the Kirk’s General Assembly backed his appointment by 326 votes to 267.