SEVERAL Dorset MPs are set to defy David Cameron by voting against plans to allow gay marriage.

But one Tory who once took a hard line on gay rights issues is now an enthusiastic supporter of the idea.

There are reports that up to 120 Conservative MPs could vote against plans to legalise same-sex weddings on Tuesday, February 5.

New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne - who has said he is “deeply ashamed” of some of his past pronouncement on gay rights - said he was tired of the flood of emails and letters on the issue.

“The number of people who write to me quoting Leviticus, 'It's an abomination for a man to lie down with another man'. If you read the same passage, it's also an abomination to eat shellfish, punishable by death, or to have a haircut, punishable by death, or to wear a coat of more than one cloth,” he said.

The MP, a practising Christian, said gay marriage was legal in 10 countries, including Catholic Spain.

“Does it change my marriage? Does it change the marriage of all those people who are writing to me saying marriage will be undermined and destroyed? Why is marriage not undermined in Spain and Canada and elsewhere?

“My marriage isn't going to be undermined and changed one bit.”

But South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “I shall be voting against because I believe it is part of Christian teaching and it is right that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“I have nothing against the gay community, indeed the gay community was not even calling for this itself.

“This is something that has been thrust on us by the Prime Minister. My own personal view is David Cameron has no mandate for this whatsoever.”

Conservative MP for Poole Robert Syms said he would be voting against the bill. He told the Echo he had had 1,500 letters from constituents very upset with the proposals adding: “It's not very popular with small 'c' conservatives in Poole.”

He said: “Civil partnerships have been a great success in getting rid of most of the unfairnesses in tax and benefits and everything else. I don't think that there is any particular need to go one step further and in doing so upset many, many people.”

Mid Dorset and North Poole Lib Dem MP Annette Brooke said: “I cannot say how I will be voting, as I've made a pledge to my constituents to listen to the entire debate before finally making up my mind.”

Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, who is gay and a Roman Catholic, said he had “agonised” over his stance on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill but was inclined to support it.

“The lobbying that has been undertaken by those against this bill has been some of the most unpleasant spiteful, hateful things that I've ever known,” he said.

“Some of my constituents have written in opposing it. I don't know what sort of relationship they have with their God but he's not the God of compassion that I recognise. They've been hateful.

“They talk about homosexuality being a disease that will lead to destruction of the human race and gays swirling around in a cesspool of their own making.”

He said he did not think there was a clamour for the gay marriage proposal but added: “That said, it's being presented as bringing greater equality and as a gay man I don't see how I can vote against something that's presented as bringing greater equality.”

We are opening comments on this story for a short time this morning. Please make sure you read our house rules for commenters and our terms and conditions before you post. Thanks. The Echo has asked the county's other MPs for comment and will update the story as and when they respond.