Former Conservative defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth has warned of the dangers of the "aggressive homosexual community".

The Aldershot MP was speaking during the Commons debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on Monday evening. Sir Gerald said he opposed the bill as he believed it would restrict the freedom of speech of people who were opposed to same-sex weddings for religious reasons.

His fellow Tory MP, Margot James, said gay rights legislation had necessarily "levelled the playing field" to ensure "outrageous verbal aggression" directed at gay people would stop.

But Sir Gerald suggested that rather than creating a level playing field gay rights had actually gone too far. "I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being levelled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further," he said.

The MP did not make clear what that further step would be.

Plans to allow gay marriage look set to overcome their latest parliamentary hurdle this evening after Labour and the government signalled they were ready to work together to defeat a backbench bid to wreck the legislation in the House of Commons.

A source close to Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the Press Association she was "very relaxed" about a Labour proposal for an immediate consultation on extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, designed to defuse Tory backbench demands for straight couples to be given equality with homosexuals and lesbians in this area.

The deal means that the first same-sex marriages could take place as early as next summer if the gay marriage bill clears the House of Lords, where it is expected to meet stiff resistance.

A Tory opponent of gay marriage has tabled a "wrecking amendment" to the Bill which would extend the option of civil partnerships to straight couples. While many advocates of same-sex marriage back the idea in principle, they fear it could delay the legislation or scupper it altogether after Miller said it would impose "significant" additional complexities and extra costs on the reforms.

The wrecking amendment, tabled by former families minister Tim Loughton, is expected to win the support of 100 or more Conservative backbenchers in a free vote in the Commons this evening, but it needs the backing of large numbers of Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs to have any chance of being passed.

Writing on The Huffington Post UK today, Miller sought to reassure Conservative colleagues who oppose her bill that their fears are unfounded.

"The new legislation will not marginalise those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, it will not discriminate against those in faith schools who teach that marriage is between a man and a woman and it will not force priests, imams or rabbis to conduct same sex marriages against their wishes," she said.

She added: "Our plans are based on the fundamental values and principles which bind us together as a society. I remain of the view that, far from being a radical departure, equal marriage is simply one more in a long line of reforms which have strengthened marriage, ensuring it remains as relevant to our society as it ever was.

"It will make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people and we should be proud that we now live in a society which makes it possible."

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • People celebrate outside the Parliament after lawmakers passed the "marriage equality project" in Montevideo, Uruguay,Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Their vote makes Uruguay the third country in the Americas after Canada and Argentina to eliminate laws making marriage, adoption and other family rights exclusive to heterosexuals. In all, 11 other nations around the world have already taken this step. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

  • People celebrate in parliament after lawmakers voted to legalize gay marriage in Montevideo, Uruguay,Wednesday, April 10, 2013. President Jose Mujica's ruling Broad Front majority is expected to put the law into effect within 10 days. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

  • People attending a session of parliament stand up to celebrate after lawmakers voted to legalize same sex marriage in Montevideo, Uruguay,Wednesday, April 10, 2013. The law was backed by 71 of the senators in the 92-seat legislature in Wednesday's vote. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

  • People celebrate after lawmakers voted to legalize same sex marriage inside Parliament in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Supporters of the law, who had filled the public seats in the Senate, erupted in celebration when the results were announced. The bill received the backing of 71 members of the 92-seat chamber. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

  • A man holds up a gay pride flag as he and others celebrate after lawmakers legalized same sex marriage inside Parliament in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. The vote makes Uruguay the third country in the Americas after Canada and Argentina to eliminate laws making marriage, adoption and other family rights exclusive to heterosexuals. In all, 11 other nations around the world have already taken this step. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

  • People celebrate outside the Parliament after lawmakers passed the "marriage equality project" in Montevideo, Uruguay,Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Their vote makes Uruguay the third country in the Americas after Canada and Argentina to eliminate laws making marriage, adoption and other family rights exclusive to heterosexuals. In all, 11 other nations around the world have already taken this step. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    people are gathered on Denfert-Rochereau square in Paris at the beginning of the demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. At left, foreground, a banner of a student union which reads : 'Students mobilised'. AFP PHOTO /THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    Girls take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO /THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    Tow men hold a French national flag and a rainbow flag as they gather to take the start of a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO /THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. Placard reads : 'Wedding for everybody' AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO /THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    A woman holds a placard reading 'Jesus had two fathers and one surrogate mother' during a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People hold a giant rainbow flag as they take in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FRANCE-SOCIETY-WEDDING-DEMONSTRATION-PARIS

    People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)