Imagine the courage it must have taken for an elected state senator to come out of the closet in 1974. Just five years after New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn on that historic night in June, Allan Spear told his local paper that he was gay, becoming the first gay man to serve in any state legislature.
Even more remarkable, Allan’s declaration did not end his career. In fact, he went on to become the Senate President, and served until 2000. Today, he is revered as a leader who helped shape Minnesota, and he’s among the trailblazers in gay politics who inspire the work of the Victory Fund. We learned this weekend that Allan Spear died at the age of 71 from complications after heart surgery.
Every day I work with men and women like Allan. These are people who refuse to serve in silence. They choose honesty and integrity over fear and hiding about a topic that still can be a barrier to public service in many parts of America. When Allan came out, the number of openly gay elected officials in the U.S. could be counted on one hand. Today, more than 420 are serving openly, and the Victory Fund has endorsed 100 candidates this year for the first time in its history.
The reason for that success is that people like Allan Spear, Harvey Milk and Elaine Noble — pioneers all–conquered their fears, defied their critics, dismissed their opponents’ attacks…and told the truth. We remember Allan today as we look ahead to the hard work of the next three weeks–work that he made possible.