Openly gay, longtime Minnesota State
Senator Allan H. Spear has died at the age of 71. Spear died on
Saturday from complications following heart surgery on Thursday,
reports the New York Times.
Spear had served 29 years in the
Minnesota senate starting in 1972. Two years later, he became one of
the first elected officials to lead an open and honest gay life, when
he told a Minneapolis Star reporter that he was gay. “There's
nothing I'm ashamed of. Nobody should have to talk about it on the
back stairways.” Fittingly, Spear died on National Coming Out Day
– a day set aside to help gay and lesbian people come out of the
Senator Spear worked tirelessly to
achieve a decade-long dream of passing gay civil rights protections
in Minnesota – a dream he realized in 1993 when Minnesota became
only the 8th state to do so.
“He was intellectual and professional
in his approach to civil rights,” Marcia Greenfield, a longtime
friend and colleague told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.
“Without a doubt, everyone who served
with him would rank him as one of the brightest members who served,”
former Senate majority leader Roger Moe told the New York Times.
“Knowledge is power, and because of that he had the ability to
bring people together.”
In 1977, Spear would call on the
Minnesota Senate to oppose an anti gay marriage bill. “Why is this
called the Defense of Marriage Act? It seems to me that insofar as
gay and lesbian couples want to be married, they're not attacking
marriage, they're embracing marriage. They are essentially saying
that marriage is a desirable state. Marriage is something that
provides benefits, that provides emotional stability, that provides
the kind of recognition that all people in society want.” He lost
that argument, but thankfully won many others.
A University of Minnesota history
professor, Spear retired from politics in 2000 after serving his last
eight years as Senate President.