After decades of debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Tuesday struck down a barrier to ordaining gays, ratifying a proposal that removes the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, in the latest mainline Protestant move toward accepting gay relationships.

The change was endorsed last year by the Presbyterian national assembly, but required approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies.

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., cast the deciding 87th vote Tuesday night. Sixty-two presbyteries have voted against the measure and balloting will continue, but the majority needed for ratification was secured in Minnesota.

“It’s a thrilling day,” said Sylvia Thorson-Smith, an elder at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz., whose family advocates for gays and lesbians in the church. She invited 40 people to her house for a party after the vote was announced. “I can’t help but think of those who have worked and suffered and endured and hoped for this. Some have not lived to see it.”

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