The Church of Norway has voted not to allow same-sex couples to be married by its priests in a close run vote.

Proposals to introduce a marriage liturgy for gay couples were voted down at the start of the Church’s national synod on Tuesday morning, with 64 of 115 votes against and 51 in favour.

“We are disappointed, but it’s OK to be disappointed sometimes, ” Bård Nylund, the leader of Norway’s national association for gay, bisexual and transgender people, told Norway’s VG newspaper. “We want to make it clear that we are happy that there is a struggle, and that so many in the Church are willing to stand up and be counted.”

“Now they have stated loud and clear that they do not want to be a national church,” he told NRK.  “It’s a sad day for the Church, and for all its members who now feel that the Church does not give them the sense of belonging they want.”

In October last year, Norwegian bishops began to push for gay couples to receive Church blessings for their civil unions rather than furthering equal marriage ceremonies.

The decision was made despite eight out of twelve bishops stating that there was no theological reason for not performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Norway legalised same-sex marriage in 2008.

Last Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, defended his Church’s decision to block clergy from marrying gay couples in England and Wales by saying Anglicans in Africa could be attacked or killed as a result.