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The Church of Scotland has voted to allow ministers in a gay marriage to serve the religious institution iStock

Ministers in a gay marriage will be permitted to serve in the Church of Scotland after its General Assembly passed a historic vote to allow it. Passed on the first day of this year's gathering in Edinburgh, it means that ministers will be allowed to be in a same-sex civil partnership or marriage, but they will still not be allowed to conduct gay weddings.

The move follows last year's decision by the Kirk – the church's highest law-making body – to allow ministers to enter into civil partnerships. Although the church will maintain a traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman, the decision will allow individual congregations to "opt out" if they want to appoint a deacon or minister in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership.

After the Theological forum presents a report next year, there will be a wider consideration of the theology behind same-sex marriage.

The move was welcomed by the Equality Network – Scotland's national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity.

"We are pleased with the vote as it gives Kirk sessions the freedom to decide for themselves," said director Tim Hopkins. "We are generally in favour of a liberal position but recognise that people have different views."

However, others reacted with fury, including Arthur C Custance, a church elder from Kinlochleven, who warned a "vote in favour of homosexuality is in effect voting against Jesus Christ", according to The Edinburgh Evening News.

Rev Prof Andrew TB McGowan from Inverness East, Presbytery of Aberthethy also told the Assembly that the matter had "decimated the Church", the paper reported.

"Thousands of members and adherents have left the Church, sometimes whole congregations. This has been particularly damaging in the Highlands and islands," he said.

The move also differentiated the Scottish church from the Church of England, which bans clergy from being married to partners of the same sex and has refused to allow churches to hold gay weddings.