(Forwarded today from Mark St. John, Indiana Equality's lobbyist.)
State Senator Anita Bowser (D-Michigan City) passed away peacefully in her sleep at 6 a.m. today (Sunday, March 04, 2007) from a private battle with breast cancer at the age of 86.
A veteran lawmaker, Senator Bowser was widely respected as a constitutional scholar and the conscience of the Indiana State Senate. To lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, Senator Bowser was one of the chief proponents of equal rights for all Hoosiers, and a key opponent of Senate Joint Resolution 7, the marriage discrimination amendment.
In this year's Senate debate regarding the marriage discrimination amendment, Senator Bowser observed that SJR 7 was nothing more than a wedge issue. She asked her fellow Senators how they could inflict "great harm to citizens who through not fault of their own are born with this particular phenomenon." Bowser stated that the Indiana Constitution gives us rights, "it doesn't talk about intolerance." She asked "Who next is going to be on your hatred list?"
A retired political science professor, Bowser was first elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1980 and then to the State Senate in 1992. Bowser's many accomplishments include being the first woman to act as House Speaker, serving as a member of the National Democratic Platform Committee and receiving numerous honors including the Louis Ingelhart Award for Freedom of Expression, the Amnesty International Abolitionist of the Year Award, the Robert Dole Owen Legislator Award from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, and recognized by the Indiana Stonewall Democrats for her opposition to the marriage discrimination amendment. Bowser was the first female to be hired to teach at Purdue University North Central.
Bowser earned several degrees including a bachelor's degree from Kent State University, a law degree from the McKinley School of Law, a master's degree from Purdue University and a master's and doctorate degree from the University of Notre Dame.
Funeral arrangements are pending.