The Gaston Gazette is reporting that conservative state senator Jim Forrester died today at age 74. Forrester represented Gaston and Iredell counties for nearly two decades, but the Republican was more recently known for his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Forrester earned a legislative victory in September when the Legislature approved a statewide constitutional referendum on whether to ban gay marriage in North Carolina. Voters will decide the fate of that referendum in May. Forrester has pushed for the constitutional amendment for several sessions.
Forrester had also come under some fire for comments he made about African Americans, in 2010.
PFLAG invited the 10-term Republican senator from Gaston County to meet with its membership after he reportedly said, “slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African-American lobbies are running Raleigh,” during a Tuesday meeting of the Iredell County Young Republicans.
While some groups didn't like what Forrester said and stood for, a look at the user comments on the Gaston Gazette's web site shows that he had his supporters.
Statement from state senators Bill Purcell and Martin Nesbitt:
We had the honor to work with Senator Forrester during his tenure in the state Senate and know that he always worked hard for the citizens of his district. Although we come from different political parties and often had differing opinions, we hold great respect for Jim and called him a friend. We worked with him closely on the Health and Human Services Committee over the years and as a doctor he brought a necessary level of expertise to Senate deliberations on health care matters. We are deeply saddened to hear of his passing and our thoughts go out to his family. He will be missed in the state Senate.
LGBT advocate and blogger Pam Spaulding from Pam's House Blend said this to Creative Loafing in an email about Forrester's death:
"It’s tragic that the man didn’t leave this earth with a more compassionate view of humanity. Even in this terrible, emotional situation for Forrester’s family, his anti-gay wife, Mary Frances, made it publicly and politically clear with the “go out with his boots on and support the causes in which he believed to his last breath” comment to ensure the public that there would be no deathbed conversion regarding the discrimination amendment or his views of the civil rights of LGBT North Carolinians.
I’m not sure why Mrs. Forrester felt the need to politicize her husband’s health decline and passing like this; it would certainly not be foremost on my mind in this kind of situation, but there you have it. It's quite sad."