The former Defence Secretary Liam Fox has called gay marriage proposals “divisive, ill thought through and constitutionally wrong” while promising to vote against them in the Commons.
The Tory MP said he does not believe the move is a deliberate effort to “antagonise” party traditionalists, but branded it “a form of social engineering of which Conservatives should be instinctively wary” which would please only “a very small, if vocal, minority”.
Mr Fox, who resigned from the Cabinet in 2011 over his controversial working relationship with his friend Adam Werritty, emphasised that he was not homophobic. Gay partnerships were, he said, “a variant of the spectrum of human sexual behaviour and should be treated with tolerance and respect”.
Speaking to some of his constituents, Dr Fox said that a ban on the Church of England performing such ceremonies appeared to have been written “on the hoof”.
This legal caveat, inserted to reassure religious critics, is “absurd and anomalous” given that the Catholic Church is not covered despite being even more strident in its opposition to gay marriage, he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to introduce the changes by 2015, despite concern among his party that the subject has upset many among the Tory grassroot membership.
Dr Fox reiterated this point, saying it had “led to the alienation of many loyal and, in many cases lifelong, supporters of the Conservative Party,” adding that there should be a U-turn “before things get out of hand”.