THE Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has held an historic vote to approve gay couples to marry in church.

The move means it will be the first Anglican Church in the UK to allow same-sex marriages, a milestone for gay rights campaigners across the UK.

However it will also leave the Church at odds with the Church of England and most of the provinces and churches around the world which make up the Anglican Church.

The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church said it was a “momentous step” for the Church.

He said: “By removing gender from our marriage canon, our church now affirms that a same sex couple are not just married but are married in the sight of God.”

The historic vote took place today at the General Synod at St Paul’s and St George’s Church in Edinburgh, which will see the removal of the doctrinal clause of Canon 31 (Of the Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony) which states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The motion includes a 'conscience' clause for those who do not wish to officiate at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual marriages.

It also includes a 'nomination' clause, where clergy who want to officiate at gay weddings will put themselves forward for nomination to do so, while those who are against carrying out same-sex marriages need not officiate.

Bishops will decide which churches can be made available on a case-by-case basis and whether non-religious settings are appropriate for church weddings.

Any changes to the canons requires a two-year process of first and second 'readings' and last year the Synod had passed a first reading of the motion to change.

For the second reading to pass, the proposal needed the backing of at least two thirds of each house of Bishops, Clergy and Laity.

The votes cast were 80 per cent of Bishops in favour, 67.7 per cent of Clergy in favour and 80.6 per cent of Laity in favour. 

Stonewall Scotland director, Colin Macfarlane, said: "We’re delighted by today’s news from the Scottish Episcopal Church.

"This step allows couples to celebrate their love within their faith and sends a really positive message to other LGBT people, both here and around the world.

"It signals that members of the church welcome, recognise and respect LGBT people as part of the faith community."

Same-sex marriage became legal in Scotland at the end of 2014 but individual church traditions mean each can decide whether to participate.

There have been tensions within the wider Anglican community around same-sex marriage, and the SEC may intensify the split between more liberal churches, such as in North America, and those which support the recriminalisation of homosexual activity including African churches of Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

Last year the Communion sanctioned the US Episcopal Church when it decided to allow gay marriage in church.

The Church of England will not conduct gay marriages, or allow clergy to be in a same-sex marriage, though there are indications that it is edging towards a more tolerant stance.

In February, a report opposing gay marriage was rejected by the Church of England's Synod.

Most denominations, including the Church of Scotland, oppose same-sex marriage.

However the Kirk recently made strides towards marriage equality with a historic debate about same-sex marriage in church.

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and worldwide Catholic Church remains opposed to same-sex marriages.