An Ulster Unionist Party peer has stepped down from his party after making comments describing gay marriage as “deviant”, and describing a Gay Pride march though Belfast as “offensive”.

Lord Maginnis, a member of the UUP for 50 years, and former MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, announced his resignation following reports that his recent comments on gay marriage had embarrassed party leader Mike Nesbitt, as well as other senior members.

The 74-year-old peer said: “I have agonised over the last three months. Currently there is no room for independent or logical thinking [within the party] and that does not suit me,” according to the Scotsman.

On the issue of gay marriage, Lord Maginnis of Co Tyrone had said he was: “concerned about young children, that they would be influenced by [gay neighbours]. This is not something private like your marriage or my marriage, this is something aggressive and demanding.”

The Ulster Unionist Party was forced to distance itself from comments made by Lord Maginnis during a radio interview, that marriage for gay couples was something ‘unnatural’ that would be ‘imposed’ on society, calling it a ‘rung on the ladder’ to bestiality.

Before resigning, Lord Maginnis was also  forced to withdraw comments from a council meeting during which he compared being gay to being disabled and said: “It’s a pity they have that disease and they can’t help it.”