The US Presbyterian Church voted on Thursday in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

The 221st General Assembly of the church, which represents 2 million members, the language, voted to update the language about marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two persons.”

If 172 Presbyteries approve the language, it will become church law, and gay churchgoers will be able to return home and ask their home churches to be married.

“The Church affirmed all its faithful members today. This vote is an answer to many prayers for the Church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples,” said Alex McNeill, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians.

“We will keep praying that the majority of our 172 presbyteries will confirm that all loving couples can turn to their churches when they are ready to be married.”

Commissioners also approved an authoritative interpretation which will allow ministers to marry same-sex couples while the amendment works its way through the presyteries. It will allow ministers to perform the weddings without fear of being put on trial.

The US Presbyterian Church in 2012 rejected a motion to open up marriage to gay couples.

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

Almost half of the clergy in the Presbyterian Church, serve in areas where same-sex couples can legally marry. There are currently 19 states and Washington DC that offer the freedom to marry.