Originally published: Oct. 31, 2011, 11:55 a.m.
Updated: Nov. 11, 2011, 3 p.m.
[Ed. Note — This updated article is qnotes‘ final news coverage of state Sen. James Forresters’ passing on Oct. 31. Additionally, a special editorial from editor Matt Comer appears in Saturday’s Nov. 12, 2011, print edition and online.]
GASTONIA, N.C. — Anti-gay state Sen. James Forrester (R-Gaston) passed away at Gaston Memorial Hospital on Oct. 31. The 11-term state senator and retired Air Force brigadier general was 74.
Forrester had several health problems including a heart condition. His family said that he fell ill over the Halloween weekend. He was admitted to the hospital and placed in its intensive care unit. He passed away when he was removed from life support.
A family friend released a statement to the Denver, N.C., denverncnews.com on behalf of Forrester’s family.
”It all happened suddenly,” the email read. “Yesterday, they went to the mountains and Jim lost strength in his legs. The doctor advised him to come back to Caromont for some tests.”
The family friend continued, “We all know how ill he has been, but he continued to work in the Senate. He told Mary Frances (his wife) that he wanted to go out with his boots on and support the causes in which he believed to his last breath.”
Timeline of Hate:
November 1982 — Forrester is elected to serve on the Gaston County Board of Commissioners.
November 1990 — Forrester is first elected to the North Carolina Senate, where he’ll serve for the rest of his political career.
May 23, 1996 — Forrester introduces North Carolina’s Defense of Marriage Act, a statutory ban on recognition of marriages and civil unions for same-sex couples.
June 18, 1996 — Forrester’s act passes the North Carolina Senate.
June 20, 1996 — Forrester’s act passes the North Carolina House of Representatives.
May 11, 2004 — Forrester introduces an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment that would ban marriage recognition for same-sex couples. Forrester’s amendment will be ignored by Democratic leadership for the next seven legislative sessions in which it is introduced.
November 2010 — Republicans win a majority in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly for the first time in over a century. All predictions point to the potential for an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment to be heard and debated by legislators.
Feb. 22, 2011 — Forrester introduces his anti-LGBT constitutional amendment for the last time. It sits in committee awaiting a hearing in the Senate and the House for the entire length of the legislature’s regular session.
Sept. 12, 2011 — Forrester’s amendment passes the North Carolina House of Representatives.
Sept. 13, 2011 — The amendment receives the barely receives the three-fifths majority it needs to pass the North Carolina State. It is enrolled and placed on the May 8, 2012 ballot.
October 2011 — Forrester comes under fire for allegedly falsifying parts of his medical resume. Later reports confirmed his former membership in several groups.
Oct. 31, 2011 — Forrester passes away at Gaston Memorial Hospital.
A history of hate
Forrester was the chief sponsor of the state’s impending anti-LGBT constitutional amendment banning marriage, civil unions and domestic partner benefits. First introduced in 2004, Forrester fought for the amendment in every legislative session leading up to its approval this September.
Forrester’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment wasn’t the first time the senator supported anti-gay measures. In 1996, he was the chief sponsor of the state’s statutory Defense of Marriage Act. At the time, he said the bill was necessary to protect children from being raised in homes with gay parents. He said such children were more likely to become sexually promiscuous and were more likely to be gay.
He also called gay relationships into question.
“I think if you look at the gays, it’s a fallacy to think that because they’re together, they’re monogamous,” Forrester told Raleigh’s News & Observer on May 31, 1996. “Most of them are not, according to the literature I’ve read.”
Forrester provided no evidence to back up his claims, a move he similarly made this fall when he claimed gays and lesbians had shorter life spans than heterosexuals.
“I’ve got a few homosexual patients and I treat them just the same as anybody else,” Forrester said at a September town hall. “I love them perhaps even more because I know they are going to die at least 20 years earlier and it’s something I have no control over and we need to reach out to them to try to get them to change their lifestyle and back to the normal lifestyle which we can accept.”
At the same meeting, Forrester called Asheville a “cesspool of sin.” His remarks prompted Gastonia Mayor Jennie Stuts to apologize to Asheville citizens and their mayor, Terry Bellamy.
In 2009, Forrester caused waves when he complained about the influence gay and lesbian groups and their “lavender lobbyists” had on Democratic lawmakers.
“We’re supposed to be a conservative state, but it doesn’t look like it,” he told The Gaston Gazette at the time.
He also claimed his marriage bans were not intended to discriminate.
“It’s not discrimination against gay and lesbian people,” he said. “I just think marriage should be between one man and one woman, as it has always been stated in the Bible.”
That same year, Forrester came out against adoption by same-sex couples.
In early October, Forrester, a physician by trade, came under scrutiny for allegedly falsifying some of his credentials. He later proved that he’d been a past, though not current, member in several medical associations.
Condolences for Forrester’s passing were issued by several leading North Carolina politicians and others. Gov. Bev Perdue praised Forrester for his service to the state and ordered all state flags to be flown at half-mast on the day of his interment.
Equality North Carolina Executive Director Stuart Campbell issued a brief, one-sentence statement. “We express our condolences to Sen. Forrester’s family,” he said. : :