Nigel Evans, the deputy speaker of the House of Commons and Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, has ended the “open secret” of his homosexuality.

Mr Evans, who has been an MP since 1992, did vote against the equalisation of the age of consent for gay and straight sex in 1998, but changed his mind two years later.

Since 2003, when he supported the abolition of Section 28, legislation that banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local authorities (principally in schools), Mr Evans has become noted for his support of both LGBT rights and the lobbying organisation Stonewall.

A Stonewall spokesman welcomed Mr Evans’s decision to come out. “We are delighted people in public life now feel open about their sexuality in the way they did not before. It is a pleasant surprise that there are now more openly gay Tory MPs than there are in all the other parties put together.”

Openly gay Liberal Democrat MP Steven Gilbert tweeted “congratulations to Mr Evans for coming out as gay today – well done Nigel!” Labour MP Chris Bryant wrote on Twitter: “Glad to see Nigel Evans is ‘coming out’. An open secret in Parliament for years.”

Mr Evans’s agent said that the MP will give an interview to a Sunday newspaper about his decision to come out of the closet.

He will then co-host the launch of ParliOut, the first LGBT network group within the Palace of Westminster, on Monday evening at the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons.