Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has warm praise for Prime Minister David Cameron, for “sticking to his guns” on equal marriage in the face of considerable opposition from his own party.

“It is wonderful that the House of Commons voted in favour of marriage equality this week, by 366 to 161. Bravo! Big thanks to everyone who lobbied to help make this victory happen. Without your commitment and support for equal marriage over recent years, the outcome might have been different,” said Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“One downside is that the battle for equal marriage has prompted an outpouring of anti-LGBT prejudice unprecedented in Britain for many years, with politicians and religious leaders spearheading the attacks on LGBT people.”

Mr Tatchell continued: “Although there are politicians from all three main parties who oppose same-sex marriage, most notably 128 Conservative MPs voted against marriage equality. Only 117 voted in favour. David Cameron is to be commended for bringing forward this legislation and sticking to his guns. But clearly large swathes of Conservative MPs and local constituency parties support homophobic discrimination in marriage law. They want a return to the days when the Conservatives were the nasty party.”

Writing in the London Evening Standard, Mr Tatchell stated how equal marriage had long been a focus of the Tory leadership: “I met George Osborne and Theresa May before the 2010 election and secured their agreement to review the ban on LGBT marriage. This commitment was published prior to election day in a Contract for Equalities.”

He concluded: “I may disagree with David Cameron on austerity and public spending cuts, but on gay marriage I salute him.”

Earlier this week, in an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk, gay Conservative MP Crispin Blunt conceded that equal marriage has cost the Tory leader support from within his party.

“He’s made his point, everyone knows the fire he’s going through with some of his own colleagues in order to deliver this and I hope people are going to be appropriately grateful for the fantastic leadership that he’s shown on this.”

Yesterday, David Cameron accepted that his party was divided on the issue but said: “I think it is right for Britain, like other countries, to take on this issue and to determine the right approach and that’s exactly what I’ve done and I’m proud of the fact that this legislation has now passed the House of Commons. That’s a good thing.”

Peers in the House of Lords will start debating the bill on 3 June.