The issue, which goes before a free vote of MPs tomorrow, is threatening to divide the Conservative Party with grassroots members in the rural West at the forefront of a mini rebellion.
More than 180 Tory MPs are understood to be voting against the Government’s proposal to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married, while at the same time giving churches the right to refuse to marry them in a religious ceremony.
A new website, called Conservative Grassroots, has just been set up, and it carried the full text of the letter signed by more than 20 past and present chairmen of constituency parties, calling for David Cameron to re-think the issue.
One of those signatories who made the trip to Westminster yesterday was Ed Costelloe, who resigned last month as chairman of the Somerton & Frome Conservative Association in protest at the gay marriage proposals. He said: “Many of us feel a huge sense of personal betrayal over these plans. We worked hard locally to convince people to support Conservatives but this was not part of the platform. There was no mention of this in the Manifesto.
“We don’t know where this has come from or why it has become such a priority given so many other pressing issues. We are also shocked by the way in which it is being pushed through with so little regard for proper scrutiny. The Government seems intent on restricting debate at every stage both in the public consultation and now in the Parliamentary process.