A longtime activist makes political history
In 1993, the Minnesota Legislature amended the Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. State senator Allan Spear, the nation's first gay man in public office to acknowledge his sexual orientation, sponsored the legislation in the Senate. "That was a twenty-year struggle," Spear said of the legislation. In 1978, St. Paul had rejected a citywide ordinance guaranteeing GLBT rights, but in 1991 the city's voters passed the ordinance. That move helped clear the way for the statewide law. "People realized the world was not going to end, and I was able to put together a coalition to pass a state law that I hadn't been able to do before."
Allan Spear moved to Minneapolis in 1964 to join the faculty of the University of Minnesota's History Department. He had been involved in civil rights actions during his student days at Oberlin College and at Yale University and quickly became active in Minnesota's DFL party. He was first elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1972. Two years later, he announced that he was gay. "It seemed to me it was going to come out anyway," he later said. "I chose the reporter I gave the story to."
Spear was elected president of the Minnesota State Senate in 1992 and served in that role until his retirement in 2000. He left public office as the longest-serving openly gay state legislator in the nation.
Share your memories on this topic