Many churchgoers have been put off the Conservative Party because of its push to redefine marriage, an influential Tory commentator has said.
Tim Montgomerie, the editor of the ConservativeHome blog, also warned that Conservative Party members are leaving over the issue.
Mr Montgomerie, who himself supports redefining marriage, wrote on the blog: “The Conservative Party has damaged relations with many of the country’s churchgoers by promising to introduce gay marriage.”
And he commented that the same-sex marriage issue has “been a big factor in a slump in Tory membership”. He said: “MPs tell me that the issue is a top reason for why members are resigning.”
In his article, which called for “outreach” from the Tory party to churchgoers, Mr Montgomerie said faith-based charities should “have fair access to government grants” and also backed recognising marriage in the tax system.
Earlier this year Mr Montgomerie said the plan to rewrite the definition of marriage is not a vote winner.
In April a poll showed the Conservative Party could lose up to 30 parliamentary seats and over 1.1 million votes if it bulldozes ahead with its controversial plans on marriage.
The poll, conducted by ComRes, shows that the party’s support for gay marriage is alienating former Tory voters.
For every disaffected Tory supporter attracted back to the party, it loses almost three because of its stance on the issue.
In May Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary and a Conservative MP, became the first Cabinet Minister to publicly oppose the Government’s plans to redefine marriage.
A number of other ministers, including the Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond, have expressed reservations.
A petition organised by Coalition for Marriage against the Government’s plans has been signed by over 550,000 people.