The Conservative frontbencher and Attorney General for England and Wales Dominic Grieve has been accused of using “language of the 19th century” during an Oxford Union debate with the Labour MP Chris Bryant.

According to the Sun newspaper, Mr Grieve said on Thursday: “I think being a practising homosexual is a bit like being a practising member of the Church of England.

“It’s one of those things which you have to explain. It’s thought to be a little bit weird by large numbers of people.”

Mr Bryant said: “Sometimes the casual prejudices of the past get stuck in Tory minds.”

Mr Grieve later apologised and added: “My remark was illustrative of the prejudices of others.”

The Buckinghamshire MP is a practising Anglican and was a member of the London Diocesan Synod of the Church of England for six years from 1994.

Meanwhile, Mr Bryant has revealed that he will now introduce his equal marriage ten minute rule bill on 12 February 2013.

It had been due to take place at the end of this month and was seen as a way of getting the Commons to speed up the legislative process on marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The government is due to issue its formal response to this year’s equal marriage consultation before Christmas.