The Telegraph has published an editorial saying the equal marriage proposals unveiled by the government yesterday ‘risk reigniting anti-homosexual bigotry’ and will have ‘profound ramifications’ for the Church of England.

The paper, which is publicly opposed to allowing gay couples to marry, said the newly-launched public consultation seeking views on how to introduce equality “runs into an immediate problem since there are powerful voices opposed in principle, notably the churches”.

“Their arguments – that marriage should be considered a sacrament exclusively between men and women for the procreation of children – will be heard, but are unlikely to prevail.”

The consultation has always been billed as being about ‘how’, rather than ‘whether’, the move for equality should go ahead, since its announcement in September 2011.

At the weekend, equalities minister Lynne Feathersone said: “This is a live-and-let-live policy.

“We have no wish to cross over into territory that is not ours, no desire to stop those who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“[Opponents] do not have to agree with this. But we will have to agree to disagree because for those who want to express their love in a civil marriage, then I think the state is here to facilitate that and to encourage it and rejoice in it.”

She added that homophobic language used in the debate by many senior religious figures belonged in the “Dark Ages”.

The paper called Ms Featherstone’s comments about public figures’ language “unfortunate rhetoric”, alleging that, if anything, it would be “the Government’s attempt to change the law that risks reigniting anti-homosexual bigotry”.

The Telegraph says some gays “resent being treated differently, even though they can now enter into a civil partnership with the same legal rights as a married couple”.

But it called the idea that supporters of marriage ought to support marriage between gay couples as well as straight unions a “neat, but disingenuous, conceit” on the part of the coalition government.

In conclusion, the Telegraph warns that although “churches will not be forced to conduct gay weddings, there will be challenges under equality and human rights laws arguing that this is discriminatory. It is right that there should be a free vote when this matter comes before Parliament; but the ramifications may be far more profound than Mr Cameron has anticipated, not least for the future relationship between the established Church and the state.”