More than 150 people who complained after two gay men kissed on BBC soap EastEnders have been told by the corporation that they treat gay and straight relationships in the same way.

The BBC’s robust response to criticism mirrors the row over the first gay kiss on the soap back in 1987.

Christian Clarke (John Partridge) and his new boyfriend Lee Thompson (Carl Ferguson) kissed on bench in Albert Square’s gardens during Tuesday night’s episode.

They were spotted by Christian character Dot Cotton (June Brown) who commented: “the Lord’s not the only one with eyes.”

“I am appalled by the display of homosexual kissing before the watershed shown on EastEnders,” one person wrote on a BBC messageboard.

In response to 145 complaints, some about the fact that the kiss had been shown before the watershed, the BBC said:

EastEnders aims to reflect real life, and this means including and telling stories about characters from many different backgrounds, faiths, religions and sexualities.

“We approach our portrayal of homosexual relationships in the same way as we do heterosexual relationships.

“In this instance, Christian is enjoying the first flush of romance and we’ve shown him being affectionate with his new boyfriend in the same way any couple would.

“We also aim to ensure that depictions of affection or sexuality between couples are suitable for pre-watershed viewing.

“We believe that the general tone and content of EastEnders is now widely recognised, meaning that parents can make an informed decision as to whether they want their children to watch.”

Michael Cashman, chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights and an MEP representing the West Midlands, played EastEnder’s first gay character, Colin Russell, between 1986 and 1989.

His character was groundbreaking, the first to have a gay kiss on a UK soap.

17 million people saw it, The Sun was outraged, questions were asked in Parliament and another small victory for gay visibility had been won.