08/11/2013 10:32 GMT | Updated 12/11/2013 13:51 GMT

Philip Hammond 'Shocked' By David Cameron's Push For Gay Marriage

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond arrives at Downing Street in central London on August 27, 2013. Britain's armed forces are drawing up contingency plans for military action in Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said on August 27, but no decision had been made about what action may be taken. Cameron will decide later on August 27 whether to recall parliament from its summer recess to debate a possible military intervention in the wake of a chemical weapons attack that Washington, London and Paris believe was carried out by the Syrian regime, Downing Street said. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

The defence secretary has admitted he was "shocked" by David Cameron's decision to introduce gay marriage.

Philip Hammond, who did not vote when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed through the Commons earlier this year, said allowing same sex couples to marry had been "damaging" for the Conservative Party.

In an interview with Conservative Home on Friday, Hammond said the controversial piece of legislation had "created a perception that the leadership was in a different place to the core of the party’s active supporters".

However he admitted those opposed to allowing gay couples to marry would probably soon move on from the fractious debate.

"I think the Tory party is nothing if not pragmatic and most people will now regard this as something that’s behind us, and we have to focus on the challenges ahead, not carping on disagreements that have happened in the past, and I think people will move on," he said.

"I was definitely uncomfortable about civil partnership at first, but you know it happened, it became part of the furniture, just another feature of everyday life."

He added: "I was then quite shocked by the urge to move on so quickly to the next stage, but I dare say in time I will become quite comfortable with the institution of same-sex marriage."

On Thursday evening, Labour peer Lord Alli was awarded the title of Hero of the Year by gay rights campaign group Stonewall for his work on promoting equality.

Conservative peer Baroness Stowell was awarded politician of the year for her work in piloting the government's gay marriage bill through the House of Lords.