The Tory MPs campaigning to stop civil marriage for gays and lesbians claim the move would weaken the institution of marriage. While Cameron attempts to have the public view the Conservatives as being modern and progressive, Ministers fear the rebellion will undermine this, with predictions that it will be one of the largest in recent years.
The Prime Minister will put the proposal to MPs as a free vote, but he has urged them to the view that he doesn’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative, but “because” they are Conservative.
However, a rebellion even by more than 100 Conservative MPs would not threaten any current proposed legislation on gay marriage. Gay marriage is strongly supported by the Liberal Democrats and all Liberal Democrat MPs would vote in favour, as would most Labour MPs, and key Tory members expected to support the government.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, accused Tory opponents of the reform of slipping back into “old-fashioned homophobia”. He told the Independent that the same predictions about a threat to marriage were made before civil partnerships were legalised in 2005 but had failed to come true.