The Methodist church has become the largest religious denomination in the UK to allow same-sex marriages, putting it at odds with the Church of England.
A move to change the definition of marriage won overwhelming support at the Methodist conference on Wednesday, with the first same-sex weddings in Methodist chapels expected in the autumn.
A freedom of conscience clause will allow ministers to opt out of conducting such weddings.
The Rev Sonia Hicks, elected as the Methodists’ first black female president at the weekend, said it was a “historic day for our church”. She urged people “to support each other respecting our differences”.
The Methodist church is the UK’s fourth-largest Christian denomination, with about 164,000 members in more than 4,000 churches. The vote to allow same-sex marriages was passed by 254 to 46 votes.
The conference also voted to recognise, accept, and celebrate the love and commitment of unmarried cohabiting couples.
Same-sex marriage is forbidden in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church, but permitted by Quakers in Britain, the Scottish Episcopal church and United Reformed Church.