Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge to legalize gay marriage by 2015 won't come easy, according to new poll results that show the majority (71 percent) of Conservative Party chairmen wish their leader would drop the issue altogether.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that of the 100 Tory leaders surveyed by ComRes, nearly half said their local membership has dropped as a result of the plan, with only three percent reporting any gains in members.
Additionally, 70 percent of respondents said the prime minister's push has damaged his standing in the Conservative Party.
In July Cameron said that he was proud of the forward progress the country had made in the category of LGBT rights, and he promised to continue the fight for full marriage equality.
"I just want to say I am absolutely determined that this coalition government will follow in that tradition by legislating for gay marriage in this parliament," he said, according to Reuters.
Cameron's comments immediately drew the ire of many of the country's religious leaders, including those from the Church of England, a traditional Conservative stronghold historically known as the “Tory party at prayer." In August, a poll of churchgoing English found that close to six out of 10 people who attend services regularly felt the were less likely to vote Conservative because of Cameron's stance on gay marriage.
Politicians in England actively court the Christian vote in a country where about 7.6 million adults (out of a total of 53 million) attend church at least once a month, according to the 2011 Census.
The latest ComRes poll was commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, The Christian Post reports.
"What this latest poll reflects is the growing unease amongst grassroot Conservatives about the way the PM is trying to force through this policy without any electoral mandate and without any acknowledgement of the profound consequences this change will have," Coalition campaign director Colin Hart said.
Hart and the Coalition have launched a petition against the move to redefine marriage, and so far it has attracted more than 600,000 signatures, according to The Post.
The anti-gay marriage movement also has a supporter in former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who got found himself in hot water over comments made earlier this week in Birmingham. Carey told a gathering of Conservative Party members that opponents of gay marriage were being treated with an intolerance similar to the treatment of Jews at the beginning of Nazi rule in Germany, the Independent notes.
Carey also reiterated his opinion that marriage is between a man and a woman.
"Same-sex relationships are not the same as heterosexual relationships and should not be put on the same level," Carey said. "Why does it feel to us that our cultural homeland and identity is being plundered? I have the highest of regards for David Cameron. I hope, in the months to come, he may have the courage to back down."
While Cameron's push for a gay marriage amendment has been met with plenty of dissent, even among his own rank and file, the leaders of Britain's main political parties have all thrown their support behind the measure.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband have both said they support Cameron's proposal, as have Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague, the BBC reports.
"I will support the prime minister's position," Hague said. "This is for every MP to decide for themselves and I think that is the right position on a conscience issue."