The Telegraph newspaper has criticised Chancellor George Osborne’s recent intervention on equal marriage and has accused him of playing a “dangerous game” over the issue.

In an editorial published on Wednesday, the paper said Mr Osborne’s claim that if the Tories dropped the policy it could cost them the next general election, based upon last week’s defeat of the Republicans in the US, was “dangerously misleading”.

Writing in the Times on Tuesday, Mr Osborne said the Republicans had lost “swathes of voters” in last Tuesday’s US election because of their opposition to equal marriage and abortion rights for women.

However, the Telegraph has dismissed the chancellor’s arguments, saying: “Leaving aside the fact that it was probably the Republicans’ anti-abortion stance that proved a more salient issue for women than gay marriage, such a literal read-across to British politics is dangerously misleading. In the United States, same-sex couples have far fewer legal rights than married couples.

“In this country, the Civil Partnership Act passed by the Blair government in 2004 removed any such distinctions. Mr Osborne is perfectly aware of this fact. He is also aware that there is little popular pressure in favour of gay marriage – on the contrary, there is widespread opposition – but that, too, is deemed irrelevant”.

Yesterday, Coalition for Marriage (C4M), the UK lobby group that opposes marriage rights for gay couples, also criticised the chancellor’s remarks.

The Telegraph, which previously signalled its opposition to the government’s marriage reforms in an editorial published in March of this year, also mentioned C4M’s controversial anti-marriage equality petition in Wednesday’s editorial.

The paper said: “Six hundred thousand people have signed a petition opposing same-sex marriage. All faiths will mobilise against it because church leaders are unconvinced by the government’s promise that they will not be allowed to conduct such ceremonies in any case”.

The Telegraph added: “Ed Miliband has already said that they should and human rights legislation would certainly ensure that test cases would swiftly be brought before the courts, both here and in Europe, raising the prospect of churches being forced by law to conduct marriage ceremonies they do not recognise. Is that really what Mr Osborne wants?”

At the start of the week Maria Miller, the culture secretary and equalities minister confirmed that gay couples would be banned from suing churches that refuse to marry them – as part of the government’s equal marriage policy to protect religious freedoms.