Being opposed to gay marriage is “not acceptable”, says the Government minister in charge of policing and criminal justice.
Nick Herbert specifically related his remarks to people who want to uphold the current law on marriage.
But his comments put him at odds with some of his Government colleagues who have voiced their disquiet over plans to redefine marriage.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland says he won’t support gay marriage.
A number of other ministers, including the Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond, have expressed reservations.
The issue is also affecting the Conservative Party’s finances. According to the Mail on Sunday three of the party’s biggest givers are thinking of cutting back their support over the plans to redefine marriage.
Speaking to the London Evening Standard Mr Herbert, who is in a civil partnership, said that he is “getting rather fed up with people metaphorically jabbing a finger into my chest and saying I should put up with a civil partnership.
“How would they like it if I jabbed a finger into their chests and said they should put up with a civil partnership instead of their marriage?
“In my view it’s not acceptable to say to a group in society, ‘You should put up with something that is a second-order institution to something that everybody else is entitled to, because we say so’.”
To ward off a potential rebellion, David Cameron has confirmed that all Conservative MPs – including ministers – will be given a free vote on the issue.
But Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says he intends to force all of his MPs to vote for gay marriage.
The Westminster Government is currently holding a consultation on its plans to rewrite the definition of marriage.
A petition opposing any change, organised by the Coalition for Marriage, has already been signed by more than half a million people.