By Liz Stephens
David Cameron offered a surprise public apology to gay people for section 28, ahead of Gay Pride this weekend.
In an interview with the Pink Paper today, Cameron called section 28 "offensive to gay people" and predicted that a Conservative would become Britain's first openly gay prime minister.
The move, which has been hailed as "historic" by gay rights campaigners, comes as a major step in the modernisation of the Conservative party - and also a significant U-turn to David Cameron's own voting record.
The Tory leader voted against the repeal of Section 28 as recently as 2003 - in the vote where the legislation, which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools, was repealed.
Speaking on Tuesday night at a Tory fundraising event linked to Gay Pride, the Tory party leader said: "Yes, we may have sometimes been slow and, yes, we may have made mistakes, including Section 28, but the change has happened".
Mr Cameron admitted he did not have a "perfect record" on gay rights, but added: "It does give me great pride to be standing here to celebrate Gay Pride".
He continued: "If five years ago we had a Conservative and Gay Pride party, I don't think many gay people would have come or many Conservatives would have come."
"I think we have made some real progress.
Mr Cameron also said that the Conservatives have the better track record on diversity: "The Conservatives had the first woman prime minister and we are bound to have the first black prime minister and the first gay prime minister."
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, described Cameron's speech as "historic".
He said: "We have heard the leader of the Conservative party say the words 'section 28' and 'sorry'."
Cameron's apology shows how much the Tory party line has changed in the past decade.
In 2000, Shaun Woodward, now Northern Ireland secretary, defected to Labour after he was sacked from the Tory frontbench by William Hague for rebelling against the party's support for section 28.
Cameron, who succeeded Woodward as MP for Witney at the 2001 general election, mocked his opposition to section 28 at the time.
Last year he voted to restrict access for lesbian couples hoping to conceive children through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), A move which dismayed many gay rights campaigners.
Cameron's pronouncement comes as it was announced that Sarah Brown, wife of the prime minister, is due to march in the Gay Pride parade alongside campaigner, Peter Tatchell.
Tatchell said "her support for Gay Pride is much appreciated" but continued to criticise the government for banning same-sex marriage.