A Liberal Democrat MP has apologised for calling a student a "little shit" after he was questioned about his vote on the gay marriage bill.
Greg Mulholland told Huffington Post UK: "I was of course wrong to call him a shit. But I would rather be called a shit, a bigot or a wanker than be called homophobic."
Mulholland was subjected to a public backlash after he tweeted Leeds student Jonathan Pryor saying: "I am very glad I have never met you Jonathan as you are a disingenuous, manipulative, illiberal little shit!"
After being chided for his reaction, Mulholland added:
The Leeds North MP was responded to Pryor's criticism of his gay marriage voting record. On Tuesday evening, the economics student tweeted: "After abstaining, voting for a wrecking amendment, then trying to abolish marriage, I'm glad @GregMulholland1 finally voted the right way."
Pryor told HuffPost UK: "I was surprised more than anything else for that sort of language to be used by an MP. I'd asked Greg Mulholland in the past to vote in favour of equal marriage but before this tweet he'd never spoken to me."
Hannah Blythyn, co-chair of LGBTLabour said: "It is completely unacceptable for an elected official, at any level and of any political party to refer to anyone, let alone a member of the public and local student in such a manner. Members of Parliament should treat people with respect."
Mulholland emailed HuffPost UK a long explanation of his Twitter comments, which read:
"I have made it clear throughout that I believe in equal legal recognition of same sex and opposite sex couples relationships, yet simply for daring to suggest that the Bill as drafted might be flawed not least because it fails to give equality for all, Mr Pryor has conducted a dishonest and unpleasant campaign presenting me as anti gay and revelling in other students and others attacking me on Twitter even though I voted the way he wanted me to.
"As I have said to constituents and in parliament, whilst the principle of equal recognition is one I fully support, the Marriage Bill is flawed and is not equal in several ways, as it continues to deny same sex civil partners the same pension rights as others, it provides two different definitions of civil marriage not one, it allows civil partnerships only for same sex couples and it prevents humanists and some religions having civil marriage ceremonies. So it is unequal on four counts and I have called for that to be changed, yet for that some people including Mr Pryor have condemned me.
"Sadly, there have been some who have taken this opportunity to act on their own personal or political agendas and used it as an excuse to personally attack me and other MPs I have for example been called anti-gay, anti-Christian, homophobic, a wanker and a bigot. The intolerance shown by some of both sides of this debate is sad.
"Despite my continually explaining to Jonathan Pryor and others my clear position, which is for a much more radical change and the proper separation of civil and religious marriage, he has continued to cynically misrepresent my views and to wrongly and unfairly suggest I am anti gay rights.
"It is clear what Labour student Jonathan Pryor is really trying to do. He has not said anything about Leeds Labour MP George Mudie who voted against the bill. I respect George's decision as this is rightly a free vote and a matter of conscience, however it is very telling that Jonathan Pryor who condemned for me even questioning the content of the bill, has said nothing about this.
"Whilst I am right to confront Jonathan Pryor's intolerant and dishonest statements, I was of course wrong to call him a shit. I did so because of the anger I felt at the way I was being misrepresented. But I would rather be called a shit, a bigot or a wanker than be called homophobic.
"To be called homophobic when I am not is deeply hurtful, it is like being called racist. I am neither and reject hate in all forms and I would hope Mr Pryor would do the same.
"I will continue to take difficult decisions according to my own conscience and my liberal beliefs and I will continue to make the case for a proper, radical, liberal reform of how the state recognises relationships that would lead to genuine equality for all couples, all religions and belief systems and all individuals none of which is the case in the current Bill."