North Carolina State Senator James Forrester, the primary sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, received a standing ovation during a town hall meeting where he said gay people are “unhealthy.”

Forrester and four additional Republican lawmakers – Senator Kathy Harrington and Reps. Kelly Hastings, John Torbett and Bill Current – discussed the proposed legislation during a Thursday meeting at Restoring Hope Foursquare Church in Dallas.

Lawmakers will return to Raleigh on Monday to begin a special session on constitutional amendments which will consider whether to send the marriage amendment to voters in 2012. Forrester's amendment would prohibit any legal recognition for gay couples, including marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

“At least 20 years is taken off a homosexual's life, if they practice homosexuality, due to the increased death rate from AIDS, and hepatitis, and all of the other related factors to that. That doesn't seem to discourage them from practicing this unhealthy lifestyle.”

“I'm trying to talk with them. And I've got a few homosexual patients, and I treat them just the same as anybody else. I love them. Perhaps even more, because I know they're going to die at least 20 years earlier.”

“We need to reach out to them and try to get them to change their lifestyle back to the normal lifestyle which we can accept.”

“It's a new day in Raleigh. This could really make a mark on society as we know it,” Forrester said. (The audio is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

The 74-year-old Forrester added that he believes the amendment will pass.

According to the Gaston Gazette, the 60-member audience overwhelmingly approved of the lawmaker's message, giving Forrester a standing ovation at one point.

(Related: Majority of North Carolina voters oppose gay marriage ban amendment.)