Tory backbenchers have spoken out against the government’s plans to allow marriage equality in 2013, suggesting a link between the plans, and declining numbers of people getting married before having children, and calling it an “outrage”, and a “disgrace”.

Conservative backbench MPs have spoken out about plans unveiled today by Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, to bring forward marriage equality.

Ms Miller announced that the intention was for religious institutions to be allowed to ‘opt-in’ to performing same-sex marriages, and that it would be illegal for the Church of England to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Conservative MP for Rugby, Mark Pawsey, has said he still thinks it is wrong to allow marriage equality, ITV News reports. 

He said that nearly half of the babies in the UK had come from married couples, and suggested a link between equal marriage plans, and potentially declining numbers of married couples.

“Given that marriage rates in Spain and Holland collapsed after same-sex marriage was introduced there, are you not concerned that even fewer people intending to have children will choose to get married?”

Speaking in favour of equal marriage last Friday, David Cameron said he did not want gay couples to be excluded from a “great institution”.

Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, spoke out following Mrs Miller’s announcement, saying:

“I believe these proposals are a constitutional outrage, and a disgrace. There is no electoral mandate for these policies.”

Mr Jackson had previously tweeted: “Gay marriage bill will be massacred in the Lords and govt can’t use Parliament Act as it wasn’t in manifesto. Arrogant Cameron knows best.”

Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet in Kent, suggested that 98% of his constituents were opposed to equal marriage, and Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough said:

“How dare the Secretary of State suggest that she has any right, any mandate, to bring in this legislation.”

Dr Sharan James, of Coalition for Marriage, said: “None of the parties put this in their manifesto, and they just said they were going to do it. The consultation was not about whether to do it, but how to do it.”

The results of this year’s government consultation show 53% are in favour of the introduction of equal marriage, however critics have suggested that because of the divide, the plans will see a difficult transition through the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Although the Catholic Church and Church of England are opposed to equal marriage, faith groups such as the Quakers, and Liberal Judaism support marriage rights for gay couples and have also stated they would like to provide the ceremonies.