The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has made it easier to ordain gays and lesbians as clergy.
At the annual meeting of the church's general assembly on Tuesday, the denomination dropped a policy requiring unmarried clergy to remain celibate.
The change was approved last year by the Presbyterian national assembly but required approval by a majority of the denomination's 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies.
The final decision on whether to ordain gays into the clergy will be left up to regional district leaders. Some districts are expected to continue to reject gay and lesbian candidates.
Top Presbyterian executives issued a statement to the church acknowledging that "some will rejoice while others will weep," at the decision.
Even though many Christians still believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, the subject has split Protestant groups nationally and worldwide for the last several years.
About 100 of the 11,000 PC U.S.A churches have already left the denomination over the issue. Some other conservative congregations have decided to stay in the church for now.
The much smaller Presbyterian Church in America, a separate denomination, bars ordination for women and openly gay clergy candidates.
The new policy will take effect on July 10, after all presbyteries complete their voting.