Methodists took the vote on Thursday in their national legislative meeting in Tampa, Florida. Delegates voted by roughly 60 percent to 40 percent to reject proposals that would have softened the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline. Gay advocates protested by singing hymns that briefly shut down the assembly.
The denomination has been debating the issue for four decades.
The United Methodist Church has nearly 8 million US members. Their membership inside the US is shrinking, while growing overseas in conservative countries. In debate Thursday, one delegate from Africa compared homosexuality to bestiality.
The meeting, called General Conference, is held once every four years.