LOUISVILLE, KY. -- The Presbyterian Church (USA) may become the largest mainline denomination to allow openly noncelibate gay clergy in its pulpits after delegates voted Friday to remove a ban on gay pastors. Gathered at church headquarters in Louisville for the annual General Assembly meeting, delegates voted 317 to 208 to remove the ban and send the measure to the church's 173 regional presbyteries for ratification. The future of the issue, however, is far from certain. Votes in the presbyteries can be sharply different from votes taken by the General Assembly. Last year, the General Assembly voted to ban same-sex unions, but that measure was defeated in regional votes. Through nearly three hours of emotional debate, delegates signaled a determination not to defer the issue for more study. They rejected efforts to send the issue to a new theological task force and a move to simply fine-tune the language in the church's constitution. Both sides started planning for votes in the regional presbyteries.