David Cameron has suggested that same-sex partnerships are no different from marriage.
Mr Cameron was recalling his first Conservative Conference as leader of the party in an interview with Total Politics magazine.
He said: “I stood up… and said that marriage was important, and as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter whether it was between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman”.
Although the present Government introduced same-sex civil partnerships some years ago, it has stopped short of calling these ‘marriages’.
Last year Mr Cameron said that any tax break for married couples introduced by the Conservative Party would also apply to same-sex couples in civil partnerships.
The party’s families secretary Michael Gove recently wrote an impassioned defence of marriage. But he also believes the Conservatives should have supported civil partnerships and gay adoption, which he has termed “right and moral”.
In his Total Politics interview Mr Cameron said: “I totally agree that on some of these issues the Conservative Party had some work to do.
“Individually, some of us had some work to do and we needed to do it. I am not saying it is done but big progress has been made.”
Mr Cameron was also asked how he would “defend the right to offend”.
The Government is currently trying to remove a free speech protection from recent ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ legislation. The protection makes it clear that criticising homosexual practice or urging people to refrain from such conduct is not, in itself, a crime
Mr Cameron said: “This goes back to the ‘do you listen’ question because on the one hand you don’t want someone inciting hatred of gays but on the other hand you want to live in a society where people don’t feel their free speech is restricted if it is about humour.
“So there is a balance. We all rage against political correctness and there’s lots of political correctness which is ridiculous – silly health and safety worries that stop children grazing a knee on an outward bounds adventure. We have got to get rid of that.
“But there’s one bit of political correctness which is terribly important and that’s about politeness.
“I have a disabled son and I don’t want people to call him a spastic. You are a gay man, you don’t want someone to call you a poof.
“If you have a black friend, you don’t want someone to call them something offensive.
“It’s about manners and I think what we’ve got to do is frame this debate in a sense of what is good manners and politeness and what is common sense.”