Former Conservative defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth has defended his comments about the “aggressive homosexual community”.

The Aldershot MP, a staunch equal marriage opponent, made the remarks during the Commons debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on Monday evening.

He warned: “There are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see [equal marriage] as but a stepping stone to something even further.”

Stuart Andrew, the gay Conservative MP for Pudsey, previously a victim of homophobic crime, criticised Sir Gerald ahead of Tuesday’s successful third reading of the bill.

However, speaking to the News & Mail, Sir Gerald claimed he had the backing of some of his constituents and reiterated the remarks.

“I am fundamentally opposed to what would be a very big social change,” he said. “The Church of England was and is opposed to the bill, as is the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim clergy, but their views counted for nothing.”

“There are some in the homosexual community to whom this will be a stepping stone to further changes,” he added:

“It is very important to understand I was not speaking off the top of my head on Monday. One of the key points I made was there are concerns among many of us who take the traditional view on marriage that we will be victimised.

“Are we going to be accused of a hate crime?”

He added: “I have had some very encouraging words of support from constituents.

“As far as I’m aware I have had no words of opposition from constituents over the last couple of days.”