, LONDON, May 20 – British Prime Minister David Cameron faces further dissent from within the ranks of his Conservative Party as a bill to legalise gay marriage returns to Parliament on Monday.
Cameron faces a setback in the lower chamber, the House of Commons, if the opposition Labour Party joins forces with Tory rebels in a vote on his bill.
While Cameron, several senior party colleagues and his Liberal-Democrat coalition partners back the bill legalising gay marriage, large sections of his Conservative party are fiercely opposed to the idea.
Dozens of disgruntled lawmakers are expected to deliver a heavy blow to Cameron’s agenda by backing an amendment Monday calling for civil partnerships to be offered to heterosexual couples.
Downing Street called it a “wrecking amendment” which could cost £4 billion ($6 billion, 4.7 billion euros) in pension changes and delay the passing of the same-sex marriage bill by up to two years.
Labour however, while it backs gay marriage, is set to join the rebels, arguing that the government has not made a convincing case against extending civil partnerships.
France on Saturday became the 14th country to legalise gay marriage when Socialist President Francois Hollande signed it into law, despite fierce protests from the main opposition right-wing UMP party.
In Britain however, the ruling Conservative Party appears to be at war with itself over the issue.
A letter signed by more than 30 current and former Conservative association chairmen, handed to Cameron on Sunday, gave an indication of the bitterness felt by some sections of the party.
They accused him of “treating the membership with contempt” over the issue.
“You have failed thus far to keep the manifesto promise you made to recognise and incentivise marriage through a tax break for married couples,” it said.