Actor Tom Hanks has said he should not have described Mormons as un-American for their support of a ban on gay marriage.

The Mormon church financially backed Proposition 8, a ballot measure that passed in California in November, bringing to an end nearly six months of legal gay marriages in the state.

A range of groups are challenging the validity of Prop 8.

“The truth is that a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop 8 happen,” said Mr Hanks said last week.

“There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American and I am one of them.”

After an outcry about his comments, he released a statement through his publicist.

“I believe Proposition 8 is counter to the promise of our Constitution; it is codified discrimination.

“But everyone has a right to vote their conscience – nothing could be more American.

“No one should use ‘un-American’ lightly or in haste. I did. I should not have.”

Brad Pitt and Stephen Speilberg were among Hollywood stars who donated to the campaign to defeat Prop 8.

Mr Hanks won an Oscar in 1993 for Philadelphia. He plays a gay lawyer who discovers he has AIDS, is fired and then sues his employer for discrimination.