Former U professor given award for gay rights achievements

by Melinda Rogers

After serving in the Minnesota Legislature for more than 25 years, former University history professor Sen. Allan Spear was honored by the the Gay and Lesbian Victory Foundation and the International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials with a lifetime achievement award Saturday.
The award, presented at the annual INLGO conference in Phoenix, Ariz., commended Spear’s efforts and achievements on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities throughout his Senate service.
“I think he’s been a great person for the University and a great person for the state of Minnesota,” said Jason Vorbeck, co-chair of the Queer Student Cultural Center.
“I think it’s amazing,” he added. “Not only was he the first openly gay senator, he was the first senator to work for GLBT issues.”
Throughout his tenure in the Minnesota Senate, Spear emphasized criminal law and corrections, human rights and human services. He played a vital role in amending a human rights law to include sexual orientation in 1993.
“He’s the president of the Senate which shows that Minnesota is very accepting of GLBT people — it opens the door for more GLBT people to get into politics,” Vorbeck said.
Spear is one of the first recognized homosexual politicians in Minnesota and the country’s longest serving recognized homosexual in elected office. He will retire after the completion of his eighth Senate term this year.
“His seat in the Senate will be very hard to fill,” Vorbeck said.
In addition to his Senate position, Spear was formerly a history professor at the University.
“He is a very fine historian and a brilliant teacher. Many students gained a tremendous love of history in his classes. His approach and presence was very empowering for many students — he challenged the entire state of Minnesota to think again about stereotypes,” Evans said.

Melinda Rogers welcomes comments at [email protected]