A spokesman for the Prime Minister has said Mr Blair wants to pay tribute to Ruth Kelly.

The Communities Secretary, who is responsible for equality matters, has been heavily criticised by gay campaigners and some MPs for her strong religious views.

Ms Kelly, a devout Catholic, has been accused of bowing to pressure from the hierarchy of the church over the requested exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulations for Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies.

This afternoon the Prime Minister announced that there would be no opt-out from the regulations for the church, which claims it will close adoption agencies rather than consider gay or lesbian people as adoptive parents.

The regulations, which outlaw discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people when accessing goods and services, will come before Parliament next month.

Mr Blair’s spokesman said:

“In terms of the Cabinet, I think what the Prime Minister would say is he’d pay tribute to Ruth Kelly and people like Alan Johnson who highlighted the concerns on both sides of the argument.”

The spokesman went on to say that Mr Blair felt it had been important that ministers took “the time” and “the flak” to reach a considered decision.

Alan Johnson, Education Secretary and a candidate for deputy leader of the Labour party, stood up for gay rights in Cabinet and insisted there should be no exemptions for religious groups.

PinkNews.co.uk revealed last year that Ms Kelly, the mother of four children, has been absent from key votes in Parliament on gay rights since Labour came to power.

She was given responsibility for equality issues in May 2006, but has refused to reveal her views on homosexuality.

Interviewed on BBC Radio just after her appointment last year, she ducked the issue.

The presenter, Nicky Campbell asked her three times if she viewed homosexual acts as sin, Ms Kelly said: “I don’t think its right for politicians to start making moral judgments about people, it’s the last thing I want to do.

“The question is ‘what are my political views and as a politician?’ I think everyone should be free of discrimination.

“Is it possible to be a Catholic and hold a portfolio in government, the answer is emphatically yes.

“I am responsible for holding to the collective cabinet view on these matters but I firmly believe in equality and that everyone should be free of discrimination and I will fight to the end to make sure that’s the case.”

She added, “Everybody is entitled to express their views in free votes on matters of conscience and I’ve always made clear that as a member of parliament I’ve cast my vote according to conscience but I’m also a member of the government its my duty to see through equality and I’m passionate to see there is no discrimination.”

Rumours last week that Ms Kelly was going to resign over the issue of an exemption for Roman Catholic adoption agencies from anti-discrimination legislation were dismissed by a spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government.