The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has called for an extraordinary meeting of its policy makers in order to affirm the party’s position on equal marriage, the BBC reports.

The meeting follows highly controversial comments from an Ulster Unionist peer, Lord Maginnis, who called homosexuality ‘unnatural’ and ‘deviant,’ and described it as a ‘rung on the ladder’ to bestiality.

Mike Nesbitt, leader of UUP, said that the party’s position on equal marriage was that it was a matter of ‘personal conscience.’ He has said that marriage equality was ‘not necessary’ on account of civil partnerships give same-sex couples all the benefits conferred by marriage.

In a statement, Mr Nesbitt said: “I have called an extraordinary meeting of the party executive to affirm this position,” adding, “I have no desire to be a member of any organisation that equates homosexuality to bestiality.”

Although the UUP has distanced itself from the comments made by Lord Maginnis, which the peer has since defended and refused to apologise for, his comments have been decried by gay rights activists as being ‘unhelpful’ and ‘reprehensible.’