Allan Spear lives on

Allan Spear led an exemplary life of service and compassion. In 1972, while teaching history at the University, Spear, an ardent Democrat, was sent to the floor of the Minnesota Senate, where he championed human rights and criminal justice for 28 years. When he came out in 1974, Spear became the first openly gay man to serve a state legislature in American history. Spear persevered. Though he lost a fight to block job and housing discrimination against gays and lesbians in 1977, Spear began to earn deep respect from his colleagues with his personal charm, passionate oratory, and profound knowledge. Spear practiced the same equality he championed; gaining further respect from many Republican senators for being a fair committee chair. This respect allowed him to become a pragmatic and effective coalition-builder, and brought Spear to the state Senate presidency in 1993. There he guided the passage of the Minnesota Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. Spear delivered a powerful and personal speech in favor of the legislation, memorably quipping in conclusion, âÄúI’m 55 years old âÄî this is not a phase IâÄôm going through.âÄù At the time, homosexuality was widely understood as a personal choice. In his efforts, Spear garnered the symbolic support of Republican senator and Lutheran Minister Dean Johnson. A passionate leader, wise teacher, and courageous pioneer, Allan SpearâÄôs hard-earned legacy serves to guide and inspire all those he unexpectedly left behind Saturday evening. We mourn the loss of his truly legendary spirit âÄî and may it long live on.