Conservative MP Edward Leigh has once again criticised the government’s policy on equal marriage and says he is “surprised” the issue has generated such a large reaction from his constituents.

Writing for the Gainsborough Standard in a piece titled “Let’s discuss railways and gay marriage” the veteran Tory backbencher, who represents Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, said:

“No subject has ever been the cause of greater concern to those in Gainsborough who write to me than that of the coalition’s plan to introduce legislation to redefine civil marriage to include same-sex couples. I am among the foremost opponents of this plan.

“Civil partnerships, as they currently stand in law, provide those who take part in them with all the legal benefits and privileges of marriage. And yet, as a society, we have continually decided to reserve marriage as a particular and exclusive state of life freely entered into between a man and a woman and recognised in law”.

Mr Leigh went on to say: “I believe that this situation has stood the test of time for centuries, and that it is very foolish to muck about with it. The coalition’s far-reaching proposals would have the effect of reaching into all marriages which have so far been recognised by the state and changing them into something similar but altogether different”.

The 62-year-old Catholic, who previously opposed civil partnership legislation, and campaigned against the removal of Section 28, the law which banned schools from teaching students about homosexuality, added:

“I am surprised but encouraged by the sheer volume of correspondence I have received from constituents on this matter, and I remain calmly hopeful that the government will see sense regarding its plans, and the current wise compromise we enjoy regarding marriage and civil partnerships will be maintained.”

On Tuesday, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries said the issue of marriage equality could cost the Conservative Party four million votes from Christian supporters.

However, Lord Ashcroft, one of the Conservative Party’s most influential and respected financial backers and a former deputy chairman, said in August on the ConservativeHome website that dropping equal marriage could undermine the party’s chances of winning an outright parliamentary majority at the next general election.