A graduate of Oberlin College (B.A., 1958), he went on to earn an M.A. and a PhD from Yale University (1960 and 1965 respectively). Decades later, Oberlin would also award him an honorary LL.D.
He was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1972, representing a liberal Minneapolis district centered on the University of Minnesota. He served a total of 28 years in the senate, retiring in 2000. He was President of the Senate from 1992 to 2000.
He served in the Minnesota Senate representing two Senate districts in Minneapolis. From 1972 to 1982, he represented District 57, the southeast part of Minneapolis, including the University of Minnesota main campus. In 1982, he moved to District 59, the southwest part of Minneapolis, (renamed to District 60 after the 1992 redistricting) and was elected Senator from there, and was reelected until his retirement in 2000.
Having come out of the closet on December 9, 1974, he was one of the first openly gay Americans serving in elected office. His coming out drew national attention, being featured in the New York Times amongst others.
Spear was instrumental in passing the 1993 Minnesota Human Rights Act, which guaranteed protection from discrimination in education, employment, and housing to GLBT Minnesotans. He had been working on this for nearly 20 years, and later called it his "proudest legislative achievement". His personal connections with other Senators during his years in office were important in gaining the votes of Republican colleagues. He gained the public support of the leader of the Senate Republicans, Lutheran minister Dean E. Johnson, who gave a speech supporting the bill on the Senate floor (and was later "censured" by his local Republican party officials, and eventually forced out of the Republican party). At the time, many people believed that gays and lesbians "chose" their sexual orientation. During the debate on this bill, Spear humorously said to his colleagues "I'm 55 years old – this is not a phase I'm going through."
In 2008, as part of Minnesota's Sesquicentennial celebration, the Minnesota Historical Society named him as one of the 150 people and groups that helped shape the state.
Spear died October 11, 2008 from complications following heart surgery earlier that week. He is survived by his partner of 20-plus years, Junjiro Tsuji. (Picture: Junjiro Tsuji at a Pride event in Minnesota with a friend in 2010)
He had partially completed an autobiography (Crossing the Barriers) at his death; a colleague of his in the Minnesota Senate, John Milton provided an afterword listing the accomplishments of his later years. This book was published in 2010.
Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear
Hardcover: 456 pages
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (October 29, 2010)
Amazon: Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear
Allan Spear had a long and distinguished career as a historian and as a Minnesota state senator. Perhaps best known for coming out as openly gay during his first term in the Minnesota Senate-becoming one of the first elected officials in the nation to do so-Spear was also a leader of Eugene McCarthy's run for the presidency, an organizer against the war in Vietnam, and a key proponent for the establishment of the African-American studies department at the University of Minnesota.
Spear's memoirs are fascinating and moving: in early chapters on his childhood and college years, he writes with great introspection about his growing self-awareness of being gay. Later he writes about his development as an intellectual, particularly as a white man fighting to win legitimacy for the study of African-American history and culture. During his time at the University of Minnesota, Spear became deeply involved with the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) and the antiwar movement. At the same time, Spear became increasingly active in the emerging gay rights movement and began the process of coming out to his friends and colleagues.
After a failed run for the Minnesota House in 1968, Spear was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1972 and served as Senate president from 1993-2000. In 1993, he was instrumental in the passage of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which protected LGBT people from discrimination in housing, education, and employment-an achievement he considered one of the finest of his career. A skilled parliamentarian, he remained a progressive leader in the legislature until his retirement in 2000.
Spear passed away on October 11, 2008, leaving his memoir slightly incomplete. A stirring afterword by John Milton completes the story of Spear's life, chronicling the recognition of his accomplishments as a politician and activist during his final years.
Evening Crowd at Kirmser's: A Gay Life In The 1940S by Ricardo J. Brown
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; Reprint edition (April 10, 2003)
Amazon: Evening Crowd at Kirmser's: A Gay Life In The 1940S
It is often difficult to imagine gay gathering places in the decades before the Stonewall riots of the 1960s, and nearly impossible to think of such communities outside the nation's largest cities. Yet such places did exist, and their histories tell amazing stories of survival and the struggle for acceptance and self-respect.
Kirmser's was such a place. In the 1940s, this bar in downtown St. Paul was popular with blue-collar customers during the day, then became an unofficial home to working-class gay men and lesbians at night. After Ricardo J. Brown was discharged from the navy for revealing his sexual orientation in 1945, he returned home to Minnesota and discovered in Kirmser's a space where he could develop his new self-awareness and fulfill his desire to find people like himself.
The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's is Brown's compelling memoir of his experiences as a young gay man in St. Paul. In an engaging and open writing style, and through stories both humorous and tragic, Brown introduces us to his family, companions, and friends, such as Flaming Youth, a homely, sardonic man who carried the nickname from his youth ironically into middle age; Dale, who suddenly loses his job of six years after an anonymous note informed his employer that he was gay; and Bud York, an attractive and confident man with a fondness for young boys.
A lifelong journalist, Ricardo J. Brown (1926-1998) was born in Stillwater, Minnesota. During his long career, he worked for the Alabama Journal, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner of Alaska, and as the Minneapolis bureau chief for Fairchild Publications.
William Reichard is a poet and fiction writer, and author of An Alchemy in the Bones (1999) and To Be Quietly Spoken (2001).
Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation (American Governance and Public Policy series) by Donald P. Haider-Markel
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Georgetown University Press (August 11, 2010)
Amazon: Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation
Out and Running is the first systematic analysis of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) political representation that explores the dynamics of state legislative campaigns and the influence of lesbian and gay legislators in the state policymaking process. By examining state legislative elections from 1992 to 2006 and state policymaking from 1992 to 2009, Donald Haider-Markel suggests that the LGBT community can overcome hurdles and win elections; and, once in office, these officials can play a critical role in the policy representation of the community.
However, he also discovers that there are limits to where and when LGBT candidates can run for office and that, while their presence in office often enhances policy representation, it can also create backlash. But even with some of these negative consequences, Out and Running provides compelling evidence that gays and lesbians are more likely to see beneficial legislation pass by increasing the number of LGBT state legislators. Indeed, grassroots politics in the states may allow the LGBT community its best opportunity for achieving its policy goals.
More Real Life Romances at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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