Allan Spear, one
of the country's first openly gay state senators, died
of complications from heart surgery Saturday in Minneapolis.
He was 71.
Spear became one
of only two openly gay legislators in the country when
he announced he was gay during a 1974 interview with the
Minneapolis Star (now the Star-Tribune).
He then launched an initiative to amend Minnesota's
Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based
on sexual orientation, which finally passed in 1993,
according to the Associated Press. He also cofounded
the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Elected
and Appointed Officials and became a board member of
the OutFront Minnesota PAC, the Star-Tribune
with all Minnesotans who mourn the loss of Allan Spear,"
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said in a
statement. "His evenhandedness, command of the issues,
and ability to reach across the aisle and work with
colleagues of both parties were legendary and should
inspire us all. He was a man of great courage who
served as one of this nation's first openly gay
legislators. Michelle and I and the Bidens send our
thoughts and prayers to Allan's partner,
Junjiro Tsuji, and all the family, friends and colleagues
who loved him."
Spear, a member
of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, was first elected
in 1972 and served in the senate until his retirement in
2000; from 1993 to 2000 he was senate president.
He was also the first non-attorney to lead the senate
judiciary committee. During his 18-year tenure on the
crime prevention committee, Spear fought against racial
profiling and sought to reduce the high incarceration
rate among African-Americans, according to the
Star-Tribune. Celebrating the state's
sesquicentennial, the Minnesota Historical Society named
Spear one of the 150 Minnesotans who shaped the state,
according to the Minnesotan Daily newspaper.
Spear was also an
associate professor of history at the University of
probably no greater honor for any leader than to have those
who follow you say you made a difference in their lives and
the life of their community," university president Bob
Bruininks said in a statement. "That can certainly be
said of Allan Spear."
He is survived by
his longtime partner, Junjiro Tsuji; his brother
Richard; and other family members. (Michelle Garcia, The