17/01/2012 06:58 GMT | Updated 31/01/2013 17:11 GMT

Gay Marriage Plans: Cameron Could Face 'Biggest Ever Rebellion'

David Cameron could face his largest backbench rebellion over plans to legalise gay marriage.

While the prime minister declared at 2011’s Conservative party conference that he supported gay marriage “because” he was a Conservative, not despite it, the Independent reports up to 100 of Cameron’s backbenchers could oppose plans to legalise homosexual marriage.

Tory MP and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Oliver Letwin, David Burrowes, told the paper that gay marriage was “a debate we don't need to have at this stage.”:

"There are strong doubts that we need to go down this path. It would open up a can of worms and a legal minefield about freedom, religion and equalities legislation.

The rebellion would be larger than over Europe, where 81 backbenchers defied Cameron and two ministerial aides resigned over the issue.

However, MPs will be offered a free vote, as with traditional conscience issues in the House of Commons. But it is feared a revolt against the plans could harm the Conservative party’s modernising credentials.

Head of gay rights organisation Stonewall Ben Summerskill accused the party of "old-fashioned homophobia" in opposing the plans.

A recent threat to allowing civil partnerships in Churches was described as indicating "reactionary" elements in the Tory party still remain by Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake.

An amendment to legislation which would have prevented civil partnerships being conducted in churches by a Conservative peer was dropped in December after being rubbished by a Bishop.