Actor and theatre director Simon Callow believes the recent outbursts of Lord Carey and former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe on the subject of equal marriage illustrates how the two are living in the past.

Writing in the London Evening Standard, Callow said: “they both speak for an older dispensation, a configuration of society which no longer exists. It must be disappointing and frustrating for them to see the world they thought they knew changing”.

During an anti-equal marriage rally in Birmingham last week, Lord Carey said politicians were trying to “plunder” the institution of marriage and that “same-sex relationships are not the same as heterosexual relationships”.

In response, Callow said: “The views of the religious are rooted in all kinds of ancient circumstances which have nothing to do with the way we live now. I defend to the hilt their right to hold these beliefs and to follow these practices.

“I have no desire whatsoever to impose anything on them as long, once again, as they damage no one else in the process.

Callow continued: “But nor must they try to impose their beliefs on me. Religion, and indeed God, are both inventions — glorious inventions, at their best — of the human mind but they must serve our human needs, not decree certain kinds of love as second class”.

63-year-old Callow is renowned for his appearance in Four Weddings and a Funeral and last month attended an LGBT reception in central London alongside his former co-star Hugh Grant. It was the same event where Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg quickly had to apologise over claims he was prepared to describe the opponents of equal marriage as “bigots”.

In his article, Callow also says he prefers the idea of marriage to a civil partnership: “I am a gay man. I am in love with my partner and am deeply committed to him, as he is to me. We intend to stay together until the day one of us dies. There is a word for that sort of commitment: marriage”.

Callow added: “Civil partnership, though a necessary step in itself, is essentially a legal contract, which provides bare legal equality between gay people and straight people. It is not marriage, which dignifies and beautifies human relationships.

“Marriage is a promise of love unending, and I claim it as my right”.