MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A minister offering the opening prayer at the Minnesota House on Friday appeared to question President Barack Obama's belief in Jesus in remarks before lawmakers could begin debating a same sex marriage ban.
Bradlee Dean, an Annandale, Minnesota-based Christian minister, did not mention Obama by name but noted that the opening prayer is supposed to be non-denominational.
He closed the prayer by saying that it was not about any one denomination, "but rather the head of the denomination and His name is Jesus -- as every president up until 2008 has acknowledged." Obama was elected in 2008.
The appearance of Dean sparked outrage from Democrats and an apology from the Republican Speaker of the House.
The House is expected to soon debate a Republican proposal to put a constitutional amendment on the state ballot in 2012 that would ban gay marriage.
Dean's ministry website offers a link exhorting viewers to "watch this video debunking the homosexual agenda and their lies."
Democratic Representative Karen Clark said in a statement afterward that Dean had a documented record of hate speech and his presence "reveals the underlying hateful nature of the anti-gay constitutional amendment movement."
Dean said later his prayer encouraged honoring veterans and upholding the Constitution and he had not known he would be speaking the same day as a possible gay marriage ban vote.
"Before I knew it, instead of the media reporting on it as me standing up for our future generations, all of the sudden I became an anti-gay divisive pastor ...," Dean wrote in a blog on his website.
A state law already bans same-sex marriage, but supporters say an amendment would take the matter out of the hands of legislators or judges. Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton opposes a marriage ban, but an amendment does not require his support.
Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers apologized for Dean's appearance and said he had failed to live up to his responsibility to uphold the "decorum and dignity" of the House.
Zellers denounced Dean and said "that type of person will never ever be allowed on this House floor again as long as I have the honor of serving as your Speaker."
(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)
This story has been corrected in first paragraph to make clear that same sex marriage debate has not yet begun