A US Senator has been asked to apologise for saying gay people and unmarried pregnant women should be barred from teaching.

Jim DeMint made the remarks in 2004 during a televised debate and reiterated them last week.

In the 2004 debate, participants were asked about a Republican state platform item which said gay people should not teach in schools.

Mr DeMint said: “I don’t think they should. We need the folks that are teaching in schools to represent our values.”

Two days later, when asked about his view, he said: “I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third grade children. I just think the moral decisions are different with a teacher.”

He apologised a day later for the remark about pregnant unmarried women.

During a church rally in Spartanburg last Friday, he repeated his sentiments.

“(When I said those things,) no one came to my defence,” he said, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

“But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn’t back down. They don’t want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion.”

Gay Republican group GOProud has criticised Mr DeMint, Christopher R Barron from the group saying in a statement.”Jim DeMint’s comments can only be described as outrageous and bizarre.

“The idea that someone who says they believe in limited government would support the government weeding out gay teachers and unmarried sexually active female teachers simply defies logic.”

The National Organization for Women called him a “sexist bigot” and asked why he had not criticised straight, sexually-active unmarried men.

Meanwhile, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said his words were “irresponsible” and “salt in the wound in our community”. The group called on him to apologise.