Delegates to the general assembly of the 2.6-million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) on Friday voted 317 to 208 to lift the ban. The measure must be ratified by a majority of the church´s 173 regional governing bodies, or presbyteries, over the next year before it can take effect.
Several Protestant denominations have struggled with the issue of ordaining homosexual men and women in recent years, but few have gone as far as the Presbyterian Church (USA) did.
Emily Odom, with the Presbyterian News Service, said it was difficult to predict whether a majority of the presbyteries would ratify Friday´s action.
Jerry Van Marter, the church´s chief spokesman, said foes of lifting the ban are warning that it could tear the denomination apart.