Nick Clegg has written to religious leaders in an attempt to draw a line under the controversy in which he was accused of labelling opponents of gay marriage as "bigots".
The Deputy Prime Minister was prompted to act after an early draft of his speech was mistakenly released to the media before a reception on Tuesday night. The word "bigots" was dropped from the final version, but not before the draft had sparked a row.
In his letters to Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, Mr Clegg said: "Those extracts were neither written nor approved by me. They do not represent my views, which is why they were withdrawn."
However, the Liberal Democrat leader stopped short of the full apology demanded by some Conservative MPs. He said: "While I am a committed advocate of equal marriage, I would never refer to people who oppose it in this way …
"Nor do I think it is acceptable that they, or anyone else, are insulted in this way. My views on this issue are no secret, but I respect the fact that some people feel differently to me about marriage, often because of their religious beliefs."