Ben Bradshaw, the first government minister to have a civil partnership, has criticised the Church of England’s stance on same-sex unions.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warned that the Church could become sidelined over its gay stance.

Exeter MP, Mr Bradshaw, who had a civil partnership last week with his partner Newsnight journalist Neal Dalgleish, blessed by a retired priest, told Radio 4 it was “the happiest day of my life.

“The priest who blessed us was breaking the rules.

“Those rules allow clergy to be prayerful with and about same-sex couples but they expressly forbid the blessing of civil partnerships.

“This is ludicrous and unworkable. And it’s being routinely ignored by Anglican and Roman Catholic priests, many of whom themselves are gay and without whose ministry many parishes would collapse.

“They can’t discipline or sack our priest who did our blessing because he is retired. But had he still been working he could have lost his job and his home.”

Mr Bradshaw, 45, who appeared at last weekend’s EuroPride’s rally, added: “If my oldest Italian friend, a devout Christian, who came to our civil partnership with her husband and children, could say in tears after the ceremony that she found it beautiful and that nothing in it had offended her Italian Catholic consciousness, then I fear the church is in danger of being left on the wrong side of history.”