If you read the papers, listen to the siren voices or believe what others tell you, Conservative membership is 'leaving in droves' over same-sex marriage.
As I prepare for my constituency Annual General Meeting I have reviewed the figures very carefully, as I wanted the Management Committee to know the reality as opposed to what is assumed. It is human nature to surround oneself with people of similar mind, and it is therefore simple to fall into the trap of thinking that just because your immediate circle hold a collective view, that everyone else does too.
At the end of February 2012, 328 members had renewed their subscription. At the end of February 2013, 274 members had renewed their subscription; a fall of 54 (or 16%). However, of the 54 who have not yet renewed, six have died, four moved away and four more have been admitted into a nursing home. This leaves 40 non-payers. Of these 40, I know 15 are going to pay (as they have phoned, emailed or met me at meetings and told me so). This leaves 25 of which 14 have actually written-in to resign (though several of these left the door open to rejoin at a future date).
Therefore, the actual number who have resigned in opposition to equal marriage in is 4%. However, six new members have joined (or rejoined) citing our MPs support for the Bill as their reason for doing so. Once these six new members are taken into consideration, the nett loss of members over this issue is 8 (2%). Not quite the "mass exodus" of popular myth.
That's not to say equal marriage isn't controversial, and amongst certain sections of society it has caused concern and outrage. My own personal circumstances have given me a unique insight and understanding of those concerns, as my partner for the last 11 years was an ordained minister when we met. He had been so for 12 years, and was respected and hugely popular with the various congregations for which he had pastoral care. Then he committed the sin of falling in love with me. He was given a stark choice - live a lie and pretend I was the lodger, or forever face the threat of disciplinary action through a Church court. Unable to live a lie (and unwilling to spend his life in fear) he resigned his ministry. Seeing him being torn apart and denied his calling, by men who definine the views of Christ to suit their own agenda, affected my deeply. Especially as those same people would have been happy for him to lie in the name on convenience. No doubt they too oppose equal marriage.