Gay Tory MP Nick Herbert addressed a US Republican gay group last week and said conservatism and gay rights are not incompatible.

Speaking at the Log Cabin Republicans’ annual dinner in Washington on Wednesday, Mr Herbert praised the UK’s previous Labour government for implementing gay rights policies and said that the Conservative Party had come to agree.

The policing minister, who was elected in 2005 as an out gay man, listed civil partnerships and the ending of the ban on gay soldiers as two of the greatest steps forward for equality in the UK.

He said: “I should say, especially here, to a conservative audience who like me may share some hesitation about the value of laws, who may worry about the infringement of freedom and the trespass on the exercise of individual conscience that social legislation of this kind can represent.

“I worry about these things. But I have come to the view that these laws have been incredibly important in our country, in order that people can be equal and in order to prevent discrimination against people.”

Mr Herbert added: “It should be an article of faith for the right to believe in equality of opportunity.

“You cannot believe in the equality of opportunity and then stand in the way of people whose only ‘crime’ is that they want to be given the same chance as everybody else.”

Other attendees at the dinner were John Dennis, the Republican nominee against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Louisiana Congressman Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao.

The Log Cabin Republicans group was formed in the 1970s and says it aims to “educate other Republicans about gay and lesbian issues” while staying true to party values.

The group recently brought a federal case against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law which bans out gay soldiers in the US military.

US District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in favour of the challenge and said she would issue an injunction barring the government from enforcing the policy.

The Justice Department argued that Judge Phillips did not have the authority to issue the ruling and said the matter should be decided by Congress.