One of conservative America’s most revered icons, who actively campaigned against LGBT rights, has died.

Former Senator Jesse Helms, died on Friday, American Independence Day, at the age of 86. His career in the US Congress spanned 30 years and saw him battle against many progressive laws.

He was accused of being racist, sexist and homophobic throughout his controversial public life. He described gays as “weak, morally sick wretches” and was also vehemently opposed to the funding of AIDS research and treatment.

In 1998, he stated that “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.”

He fought against pornography, the legalisation of abortion and even the appointment of LGBT officials to public office.

“If you want to call me a bigot, fine,” he was once quoted as saying.

He retired from Congress in 2002 as a result of ill health.

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