More than 40,000 teachers say they will probably refuse to teach about “the importance of” same-sex marriage, according to a new poll.
And 56 per cent of teachers believe any colleague who takes such a stance risks damaging their career.
The survey has led to concerns that tens of thousands of teachers may face being sacked or disciplined over their views, because of how legislation is worded.
It comes ahead of an important vote on redefining marriage in the House of Commons tomorrow.
The poll, conducted by ComRes, found that one in ten teachers say they are likely to refuse to teach about gay marriage.
It also uncovered that a further 17 per cent of teachers, 74,000, said they would probably teach the importance of gay marriage but “wouldn’t be happy about it.”
The results come as a leading employment lawyer warned of the effect redefining marriage would have on teachers.
John Bowers QC explained that legislation currently “gives a privilege to marriage in the school curriculum”.
However if same-sex marriage was brought in to law, the current definition of marriage would change.
Mr Bowers said: “The stark position in my view is that a Christian teacher (or indeed any teacher with a conscientious objection) may have to teach about (and positively portray) a notion of marriage (and its importance for family life) which they may find deeply offensive.”
“If the Marriage Bill becomes law, schools could lawfully discipline a teacher who refused to teach materials endorsing same sex marriage.”
Responding to the survey of teachers Campaign Director for the Coalition for Marriage, Colin Hart, said: “As this recent poll shows, tens of thousands of teachers face the real prospect of being disciplined, or sacked, over the Government’s proposals to redefine marriage, creating a poisonous atmosphere in every staffroom in every school.
“The legislation contains no safeguards for those who work in the public sector.
“The quadruple lock is not sustainable and instead of answering these questions the PM plans to ram this bill through Parliament in just a few months, including having to appoint 50 new peers to ensure the measure is not rejected by the Lords.”
Mr Hart concluded: “There has been very little good news for the PM just days ahead of the Second Reading vote on the Government’s gay marriage bill, which he is expected to win.
“What puzzles most people is why, when the economy continues to flat line, and he has consistently failed to implement policies that were actually in his manifesto, he decides to press on with this profoundly undemocratic and unpopular policy?
“As those within his party are saying, Mr Cameron is no Tony Blair and this policy will not be his Clause 4 moment, but his Iraq War moment. It’s time he ditched these plans, or finds the courage to put the change to the British people in a referendum.”
The ComRes poll questioned 500 teachers between 21 and 31 January about the Government’s plans to redefine marriage. It is a representative sample of the nearly 440,000 teachers in England.