Conservative MP Henry Smith claims he’s “no homophobe” after encountering criticism to his opposition to equal marriage.

The MP for Crawley, West Sussex, said he was deeply offended at being labelled “anti-gay” by some equal marriage campaigners.  

Mr Smith, who supports civil partnerships, said his opposition to the government’s marriage reform had been blown out of proportion.

Crawley News reported that Mr Smith said: “I have been accused of being some sort of anti-gay rights activist and even homophobic on some websites, which I find deeply offensive.

“This is an issue which I have not spoken out about in parliament before and I do not have any particularly strong views on.

“There are much more important issues to be focussing on such as the economy and Europe.”

The backlash came about after Mr Smith revealed he would not support marriage equality because more than 300 people of different faiths had written to him to express their concerns.

An equal marriage bill is expected before the Commons later this month.

Mr Smith went on to say:

“Civil partnerships convey the same rights as marriage. If same-sex couples were less in law in terms of their rights then I would be the first to argue against that.

“People have compared this to apartheid…this is not the same.

“They have the same rights and although it is only a small thing to redefine the term, it would cause so much concern among the religious community.”

In December, the MP admitted to his local newspaper that his own wife doesn’t agree with him when it comes to opposing equal marriage.