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:
James Forrester

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. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

12 replies on “Anti-gay state senator dies”

  1. I’m not stooping to his level and espousing how this is karma for sponsoring bills that promote hate and inequality – that would just put me on the same level as him and his cronies.

    I feel for his family – regardless of his personal ‘convictions’ and beliefs, his family still cares about him and will feel a huge sense of loss, and for that, they have my condolences.

    As the political population of NC ages, and more and more politicians and their constituents of this ‘era’ of beliefs are aged out of the picture, our state will have a much better chance of being portrayed as the wonderful, accepting place that it really is. We haven’t been able to out-vote the legacy that’s out there until now, and the tide changes in our favor a little bit every single day that someone turns 18. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been – get your friends, family and co-workers who support equal rights and treatement under the law, out to vote on May 8th, and let’s put North Carolina back on the map as a state that promotes tolerance and acceptance, rather than bigotry and discrimination.

  2. So glad the homophobe adopted the dead lifetstyle. Good riddance hatemonger. Hope your jesus is everything you hoped for.

  3. Ken: You are a better man than I am. Good riddance to bad rubbish. He spent at least the latter part of his life dedicated to harming others for no reason, the world is a better place without him. Score one for the slow death of discrimination.

  4. Who’s willing to ask the question: Did God kill him for being a human being who was bad and unloving to those who needed his love and care the most?

  5. I never have a bad word to say about the dead. All I can say is I will pray for his soul.In my opinion he was not a good God fearing man who lived by Gods word. Jesus said , no man shall judge another only Gob will.

  6. I know how easy it is to villify him. I hope the LGBT community will rise above the anger and take the high road. His actions and words certainly attacked us on a personal and profound level, however I do not beleive in an eye for an eye.

    We are no better if we stoop to the level of those who attack us and paint a perverted and incorrect picture of us. We must show those who call us evil that we are in fact not evil, but followers of a higher order. We can take evil taunts without throwing back the same infantile behavior that characterizes those we may think are our enemies.

    The real enemy is within us, for we must not give in to the temptation to carry on the same spirit of ill will that came from bigotted comments and misguided ideology. If we do not, we help to perpetuate the darkness that thrives on an unsuspecting soul to carry it on to another person, another time another generation.

    No, I do not care for the Senator’s characterization of the LGBT community and have been very vocal about correcting the fallacies he spouted, but I will not be responsible for engaging in the same behavior that makes us cringe in pain and weep in sorrow. Let it be burried with this man and let us work toward derailing this amendment.

  7. Just anotehr job for God – another cell in the torture block in hell.

    Maybe the devil will eat his cooked bod. Not that its necessary – he got digensted long ago.

  8. I’m sure this man had some redeaming value. His family certainly must have know what that was. I’d like to think you don’t have to be Christian to abide by their principles, such as not “casting stones.” You know how Christians say “hate the sin and not the sinner?” That’s not such a bad policy (when there actually has been a sin committed). I’d like to demonstrate it to Mr. Forrester. “I hate your anti-gay message, Mr. Forrester, but I do not hate you.” I hope others show me the same mercy when I pass on. RIP.

  9. To think I had just wrote a letter to the him only a week or two ago expressing my resentment for his anti-gay bill. And now hes dead. Makes me realize life is a precious thing.

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