Tory ministers Philip Hammond and Tim Loughton come out against equal marriage for gay couples

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Two senior Conservative ministers have come out against prime minister David Cameron’s plans to introduce equal marriage for same sex and opposite sex couples. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the plans were “too controversial” while Families Minister Tim Loughton told a constituent that marriage must only be between a “man and a woman”.

Philip Hammond has become the most senior Conservative to raise doubts over the Prime Minister’s pledge to introduce equal marriage before 2015. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Hammond said: “We’ve got to be clear that we focus not just on the things that are important, but on the things that are do-able, the things that are deliverable, and the things that chime with ordinary people’s sense of what the priorities are,” he says.

He told the newspaper that equal marriage was “too controversial” for the Government to tackle at the moment, suggesting that it would be “difficult to push through”, “use up a lot of political capital” and “a lot of legislative time as well”.

Mr Hammond later told the Andrew Marr show: “Clearly it is not the number one priority. There is no legislation in the Queen’s Speech, there is a consultation going on and we should look at and listen to what people are saying in response to that consultation. I think the Government has got to show over the next couple of years that it is focused on the things that matter to people in this country.”

Tim Loughton, the Conservative minister for children and families wrote to a constituent who asked if he supported the Prime Minister’s promise to change the law: “For me, marriage as a religious institution cannot be anything other than between a man and a woman, and particularly when all the rights and responsibilities of marriage are available to non-heterosexual couples through civil partnerships.”

“I do not see why we need to change the law, especially at this time when there are so many other important matters for the government to be addressing. Until now I have not received a single letter from a constituent pressing me to support gay marriage.”

Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission told the BBC: “My message to David Cameron and friends is get on with it and my message to other people get over it. Get on with something that really matters and the country absolutely cares about. This is not the ground on which to fight.”

Today, the Liberal Democrat Minister for Equality, Lynne Featherstone said: “Our consultation on equal marriage is about how to do this, not whether. Both coalition parties have made clear we are committed to legislate by 2015.” Downing Street insist that the Government remains committed to the policy.

Mrs Featherstone took part in the launch of the Out4Marriage campaign this week, recording a video where she said: “I think it’s just amazing that people love each other enough to commit to a lifelong vow, ‘till death do them part’. That should be exactly the same whether you’re straight or gay and that’s why I’m Out4Marriage.”

The campaign, launched this week by and the Coalition for Equal Marriage is asking members of the public, politicians and celebrities to “come Out4Marriage.” It is backed by all of the UK’s major LGBT media companies and this week featured videos from among others, top British girl band, The Saturdays.