David Cameron has won battle on gay marriage - but not the war, Tory MPs warn

PM faces battle to push Bill through Lords as rebels begin tabling major amendments

Conservative MPs have warned David Cameron that he had won a battle but not the war on gay marriage as they vowed to seek big changes to the Bill that will legalise it. Ministers are privately nervous the House of Lords will water down the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill and that a majority of Tory MPs might back key changes sought by peers, which Mr Cameron would then seek to overturn in the Commons. “We are expecting problems in the Lords,” one minister admitted.

Tory opponents of the measure said peers would feel emboldened to defeat the Government because more Tory MPs voted against the Bill than supported it when it received a second reading on Tuesday night.

The Bill’s next hurdle will be when it is discussed in detail by a committee of MPs. Rebel Tories have already begun tabling a flood of amendments. They will seek further safeguards to prevent churches including the Church of England being forced to carry out gay marriages if a case were taken to the European Court of Human Rights; provision for Parliament to reconsider the issue if the ECHR intervenes; more protection for public sector staff who object to same-sex marriage; and the idea of a “civil union” for both heterosexual and gay couples.

David Burrowes, a leading Tory opponent of the Bill, who will now sit on the committee that will examine it, said he would be “constructive” as he sought amendments but added: “I am in it to win it.” He believed three-quarters of the 40 Tory MPs who abstained on Tuesday had major concerns about the measure, and even some of those  who supported it did so with “a heavy heart”. Mr Burrowes said: “We succeeded in one objective – sending a message very clearly and loudly to the Lords.”

Some Cameron critics claimed his authority over his party had been diminished by the rebellion, which saw 127 Tory MPs vote for the Bill and 136 oppose it. But modernisers insisted that, despite the Tory divisions, the legalising of same-sex marriage would enhance Mr Cameron’s standing with the public.

Ryan Shorthouse, the director of Bright Blue think tank, said: “We know now that a majority of parliamentarians and the public – as well as younger Conservative MPs and activists – are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

“This has been a good week for freedom and for love. Faced with gloomy economic circumstances and deep unease among some members of the party about extending marriage, David Cameron could have quietly dropped this. But he is pressing on, and in the months and years ahead will work to convince sceptics that the Bill will only bring more happiness as well as safeguarding religious belief. As such, many voters will see the Prime Minister as principled, and the Conservatives will be rewarded for this in the long term.”

Mr Cameron told the Commons he was “proud” the Government had brought the measure forward. He said: “The great thing about last night’s vote is that two gay people who love each other will now be able to get married, and I think that is an important advance. I think we should be promoting marriage, rather than looking at any other way of weakening it.”

Coming out against: Lib Dem dissenters

Four of the 56 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the Bill to legalise gay marriage, despite Nick Clegg’s strong support for the measure.

Sarah Teather The former Education minister who is MP for Brent Central, said: “The extra protections offered to same-sex couples are marginal, [but] the potential negatives to society over time may be more considerable.”

Gordon Birtwistle The MP for Burnley, said he had consulted with churches in his constituency and found that they agreed with his own inclination to oppose the Bill as it would weaken the institution of marriage.

John Pugh The MP for Southport, said: “It achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family. As a result it draws [the state] into … debatable judgements and rulings on sexual, personal and religious behaviour.”

Sir Alan Beith Former party deputy and MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, was not available for comment.

Andrew Grice

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Loren Hughes: Senior Finance Analyst

£65,000 - £75,000: Loren Hughes: Are you a post qualified accountant? Do you h...

Loren Hughes: Commercial Finance Analyst

£55,000 - £60,000: Loren Hughes: Are you a newly qualified accountant from a B...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower