The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has passed a motion to allow the ordination and appointment of ministers in same-sex relationships.

On Monday evening Assembly commissioners voted in favour of a proposal that allows liberal parishes to opt out of the church’s policy on homosexuality.

The move has been welcomed by Scotland’s Equality Network, who say it is a positive step forward for a more equal society.

However, General Assembly rules dictate it must be approved at a presbytery level and then rubber-stamped at next year’s gathering.

Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, said: “We welcome this decision by the Church of Scotland, which is particularly important for the many LGBT people within the Church and their friends and family. This is a positive step forward for a more equal society, and speaks to the progressive values of 21st century Scotland.”

In February, the Rev Dominic Smart and his congregation of 300 at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen left the Church of Scotland over the ordination of gay ministers.

The congregation took issue with the General Assembly approving the appointment of the openly gay minister Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross church in Aberdeen in 2009. St George’s Tron in Glasgow has also elected to leave the kirk over the issue.