Jeremy Irons has clarified his stance on gay marriage after his musings that it could lead to sons marrying their fathers ignited an online storm.
The Oscar-winner had appeared to suggest it could be manipulated to allow fathers to pass on their estates to their sons without being taxed.
In an open letter published on JeremyIrons.net, the “deeply concerned” father-of-two said claims he is anti-gay are “as far from the truth of me as to say that I believe the earth is flat.”
When Zepps reminded him of incest laws, Irons, who is currently playing Pope Alexander in The Borgias, responded with: "It's not incest between men", because "incest is there to protect us from inbreeding, but men don't breed."
The 64-year-old faced a strong online backlash, with his comments variously described as “cretinous” and “cuckoo”.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall suggested the actor was taking his role as a Pope in The Borgias “a little too seriously”.
Irons’s "clarification" letter continues:
“I was taking part in a short discussion around the practical meaning of marriage, and how that institution might be altered by it becoming available to same-sex partners. Perhaps rather too flippantly I flew the kite of an example of the legal quagmire that might occur if same sex marriage entered the statute books, by raising the possibility of future marriage between same sex family members for tax reasons, (incest being illegal primarily in order to prevent inbreeding, and therefore an irrelevance in non reproductive relationships). Clearly this was a mischievous argument, but nonetheless valid.
“I am clearly aware that many gay relationships are more long term, responsible and even healthier in their role of raising children, than their hetero equivalents, and that love often creates the desire to mark itself in a formal way, as marriage would do. Clearly society should find a way of doing this.
“I had hoped that even on such a subject as this, where passions run high, the internet was a forum where ideas could be freely discussed without descending into name-calling.
“I believe that is what it could be, but it depends on all of us behaving, even behind our aliases, in a humane, intelligent and open way.”
Irons had earlier insisted he wished: "Everybody who's living with one other person the best of luck in the world because it's fantastic.
"Living with another animal, whether it be a husband or a dog, is great.
"It's lovely to have someone to love. I don't think sex matters at all. What it's called doesn't matter at all."
And on the subject of the battle for recognition of same sex marriage as opposed to civil unions, he added: "It seems to me that now they're fighting for the name. I worry that it means somehow we debase, or we change, what marriage is. I just worry about that."