The US Presbyterian Church has rejected a motion to open up marriage to gay couples.

After four hours of debate on Friday, delegates at the biennial Church Assembly in Pittsburgh voted 338-308 to reject the proposals.

The motion would have redefined marriage as a “covenant between two people”, instead of “a civil contract between a woman and a man”, AP reports.

Although Presbyterian Church ministers may bless gay couples’ unions, they cannot perform gay weddings.

Delegates in states with marriage equality told the meeting they had been inundated by requests from gay couples and wanted to perform the ceremonies.

In 2010, a church court found the Rev Jane Spahr of San Francisco guilty of misconduct for performing ceremonies for gay couples while marriage equality was legal in California.

Last year, the church voted to allow the ordination of ministers in gay relationships.