Church votes for gay 'blessings'

London, England - The Church of Scotland yesterday became Britain's first major denomination to pave the way for the blessing of gay "marriages", but it deferred a final decision until next year.

The contentious decision by Scotland's national Church will almost certainly be used by campaigners to increase pressure on the Church of England to relax its ban.

Serious splits were exposed within the Church of Scotland in the run up to the vote, with ministers on both sides threatening to resign.

After a highly-charged debate, the Church's general assembly in Edinburgh agreed, by 372 votes to 240, with the principle that individual ministers have the freedom to bless couples who have entered civil partnerships.

However, it also decided that the issue was so divisive it should be referred to individual presbyteries. If a majority back the motion, it will return next year to be voted on again.