Chicago, IL —
Dawn Clark Netsch, the first woman elected on a major ticket to run for governor in Illinois, has died after battling Lou Gehrig's disease. She was 86.
Netsch served in the Illinois State Senate beginning in 1972 and won the Democratic primary for governor in 1994. She lost the general election to Republican Jim Edgar.
She remained involved in Illinois politics and was a fierce advocate for gay and lesbian rights.
"... I was always a very passionate civil libertarian, and the idea of discriminating against someone or writing them off because, in this case, (of) sexual orientation, was just anathema to me. I would simply not have considered that proper," Netsch said in a 2011 interview
with Windy City Times
"Dawn was an Illinois treasure," long-time gay rights advocate Rick Garcia told ChicagoPride.com. "Her mark on Illinois politics is unparalleled and she will be fondly remembered and sorely missed."
In 1995, Netsch was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame (CGLHF) in 1995 as a "Friend of the Community." Netsch was also presented with a Freedom Award from Equality Illinois
According to the CGLHF, Netsch was the first Illinois political candidate to proudly display an endorsement by a gay and lesbian organization on her general campaign literature. Netsch was also among the first and most consistent sponsors of equal rights legislation for lesbians and gay men.
"Dawn was one of the very first, if not the first, sponsors of a gay rights bill in the legislature in the '70's," recalled Garcia. "She was a strong and ardent supporter of LGBT issues."
Garcia, who is the Senior Policy Advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda
, worked with Netsch on a number of gay rights issues over the past 40 years.
Netsch also served as state comptroller and was a professor emeritus at Northwestern University School of Law.
The Ohio native was married to the late architect Walter Netsch, who died in 2008.Update:
U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) released the following statement:
"Illinois has lost a true trailblazer and political icon with the passing of Dawn Clark Netsch. Dawn leaves behind a long path paved with the shattered glass from the ceilings she broke for women in leadership, as well as a proud history of fighting for the gay community and standing up against public corruption. Dawn was a friend and professional mentor, whose fierce honesty and sharp wit I will deeply miss."