Rep. Steve Simon (YouTube screengrab)

“How many gays must God create before we accept that he wants them around?” he asks as the audience breaks into applause.

The Associated Press reports:

Simon says it was an off-the-cuff comment provoked by conversations with constituents, and that he wasn’t angling for national publicity.

Legislative Republicans want Minnesotans to vote in 2012 to ban gay marriage.

Simon says he doubts the attention his speech is getting will keep the issue off the ballot but that he hopes it influences voters who are wavering on the issue.

In the three-minute clip, Simon uses a variety of arguments against the ban, including separation of church and state, as well as the arc of history. “If this becomes part of our Constitution, history will judge us all very, very harshly,” he says.

Watch his remarks here: