A special meeting of high-ranking Republicans, due to take place today to decide whether the party chairman for Illinois should lose his seat over his support for same-sex marriage, has been cancelled abruptly over what sources suggest is a lack of support.

The Illinois Republican State Central Committee had been scheduled to meet today (Saturday) to vote on whether to oust chairman Pat Brady from his role, following his bucking the party line by supporting same-sex marriage.

In January Mr Brady said that same-sex marriage “honours the best conservative principles. It strengthens and reinforces a key Republican value – that the law should treat all citizens equally.” He was justifying his backing of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Illinois.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the committee has cancelled today’s meeting to discuss Mr Brady’s support, and has said in a statement: “We are sorry for the late notice but we wanted to give the chairman every opportunity to respond to our request that he be present in person or by telephone at this meeting.”

However, Mr Brady had given notice to the party that he would be away this weekend on vacation several weeks ago.

Sources within the Republican party said the committee had found it difficult to secure the 60% of the weighted vote they would need to oust Mr Brady, suggesting they had cancelled the meeting to prevent embarrassment.

There were also said to be those questioning whether the special meeting could take place under Illinois Republican party rules.

Mr Brady said of the special meeting that it enforced public perception that the Republican party is a group of “old white guys”, but said he would respect the decision of the committee.

Committeeman Jim Oberweiss backed calls for Mr Brady to be removed, saying: “When you start publicly lobbying against a plank in our state and national party platforms, without even discussing with or advising the board of directors, I think he’s gone too far.”

Other Republicans were concerned that the meeting would deepen divides within the party and harm its public image.

Former Republican Governor Jim Edgar, who is anti-marriage equality, said he felt Mr Brady had done “a thankless job”, and cautioned against ousting him from his role, saying the party would be damaged if it fired a major figure over a social issue.

“If you’re concerned about the future of the party, if this is how it’s perceived, ‘We got rid of him because he’s for same-sex marriage,’ long term that could have a detrimental effect on the party,” he said.

The same-sex marriage bill Mr Brady backed was cleared by a House Executive Committee late in February.