Passing: Allan Spear 1937-2008

By Lavender October 23, 2008
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How fitting that Minnesota’s preeminent gay political figure, Senator Allan Spear, passed away October 11—National Coming Out Day—for his courageous coming out 32 years ago paved the way for subsequent openly GLBT elected officials nationwide.

Allan Spear. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

Born June 24, 1937, Spear received his doctorate degree from Yale University. He was Professor of History at the University of Minnesota for three-and-a-half decades until his retirement in 2000.

In 1972, Spear first was elected to the Minnesota Senate. When he came out in 1974, he was only the second openly gay state legislator ever in the United States. From 1993 until 2000, he was President of the Minnesota Senate.

US Representative Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin said, “In Senator Allan Spear’s passing, I have lost a mentor. Allan encouraged countless individuals to enter the political arena, and use their talents to confront the challenges of the day. He was particularly inspirational to those of us who, like Allan, are a part of the LGBT community. Allan was among the first in our nation’s history to come out in office, blazing a path that many others could follow.”

Spear is survived by his life partner of many years, Junjiro Tsuji.

One Response to Passing: Allan Spear 1937-2008

  1. Tim Campbell says:

    For the historical record, Lavender might like to note that Senator Allen Spear’s 1974 coming out was not seen by many leading Minnesota gays at the time as particularly “courageous.” Spear came out only under strong threat of “outing.” It is probably even true that so many people in public life already knew he was gay by the time he came out, his interview with the local newspaper was pretty anti-climactic.

    Personally, I would have withheld the title “preeminent” gay political figure for someone who fought more consistently for gay marriage and against the persecution of gay men for certain rather popular quickie sex opportunities. Until we can marry and have Lewinskies as casually as Bill Clinton, we will not be equal. Hello to all my friends in Minnesota.

    Tim Campbell Houston TX 713 739-7576

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