In his speech, Cairns said: "It is true that in addition to the four core values, schools must also demonstrate respect for the ‘protected characteristics’ of the Equality Act of 2010, but you have to dig quite deep to find out what these characteristics are.
"They include, of course, not just mutual respect for those different faiths and beliefs (which is highlighted as a British value) but also as a duty to respect the equal rights of men and women, disabled and able, gay and straight. These things matter because in core parts of our society, women are not treated equally.
"Forced marriages still happen. And all of us are aware of the government's campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation. In addition, the rights of a man to live with a man and a woman with a woman, enshrined in law, should surely be accorded the same respect and protection as the right to be a Muslim or a Jew or a Christian."
The conference Mr Cairns spoke at was debating Micahel Gove’s idea that all schools should teach 'British values' as part of the curriculum in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal, in which evidence was found that groups were organising campaigns to introduce an Islamic ethos in 21 Birmingham schools.