Labour peer Lord Waheed Alli has paid tribute to Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron over his “courageous” support for equal marriage.

Speaking this afternoon during the second reading House of Lords debate of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Lord Alli urged peers to back the reform, saying “different is different, equal is equal”.

“I ask you vote for this bill because everyone deserves the right to have their love recognised equally by the state.”

Lord Alli added he was “proud” that “so many” Conservative MPs voted for the bill at last month’s third reading in the House of Commons.

“There can be no doubt that David Cameron has shown a huge amount of personal courage”, he said.

117 Conservative MPs voted in favour of the bill on 21 May – 128 Tory MPs voted against.

Lord Alli also paid tribute to former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and cited several equality measures introduced by the previous Labour government.

He stressed that passing the bill would send a message of tolerance to the wider world. Referring to the recent decision of Nigeria’s Parliament to pass draconian anti-gay legislation, Lord Alli said: “Last week in Nigeria a law was passed prohibiting gay marriage with a 14-year prison sentence for anyone taking part in gay marriage. My lords, that means people like me making arguments like these.”

Lord Alli is one of the few openly gay Muslims in politics.

He spearheaded the campaign to repeal Section 28, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools and also fought to equalise the age of consent. It was during a heated exchange with conservative opponents, led by Baroness Young, that he informed his fellow peers that he was gay in April 1999.

Speaking to the Independent at the weekend Lord Alli argued that it was contradictory for the Church of England to claim that the bill damages religious freedom, as their opposition to it puts limits on religious groups who want to perform same-sex marriages.