David Camerons planer om å legalisere ekteskap for homofile har fått mange toryer til å melde seg ut av partiet.
Local Tory activists have told The Telegraph that the policy may leave the party short of activists to drum up voters in the next general election campaign.
They also say it is fuelling an exodus of Conservative members to the UK Independence Party.
In a survey of 38 association chairman conducted by The Sunday Telegraph last week, 21 said they personally opposed homosexual weddings. Just six said they thought the policy would win the Conservatives votes at the next election and 17 thought it would cost the party support in their area.
Many of the chairman consulted said that Tory supporters backed the introduction of civil partnerships for homosexual couples introduced under Labour, but felt that single-sex unions were unnecessary or a step too far.
The Prime Minister has stressed that he supports such unions “because he is a Conservative”, and that he wants as many people as possible to enjoy the stability of marriage.
Meanwhile, George Osborne, the chancellor, is said to feel the policy will help further “decontaminate” the Tory brand and help the party win support amongst younger voters.
Around 228,000 people responded to a public consultation earlier this year on plans to introduce gay weddings.
The Government issued a response to the consultation last week in which Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, announced that the Church of England and the Church of Wales would be not be obliged to hold such services, but would be allowed to opt in.
Roman Catholic churches, synagogues and mosques who oppose the policy would be given “watertight” protection to ensure they are not forced to conduct gay weddings, Mrs Miller said.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will tomorrow attack Conservatives who oppose homosexual marriage.
In a speech to mark five years since he became Lib Dem leader, Mr Clegg will say that Tories who oppose “equal marriage” are living in “a fantasy world”. He will tell his party that it must remain focused on occupying the centre ground of politics.
A Bill to introduce same-sex civil and religious marriages is set to be introduced to Parliament early in the New Year.
Government sources expect that around 40 per cent of Tory MPs will vote against the legislation, but hope it will be pushed through with the support of Labour and Lib Dem members. However, the Bill may face a trickier passage through the House of Lords later in the year.
Conservative grassroots rail against gay marriage
David Cameron’s plans to legalise same-sex marriage have enraged Conservative grassroots supporters, with many members already quitting the party over the controversial policy.