When Spear retired in 2000, he had served for 28 years in the Senate and taught for 36 years at the University. He died eight years later from complications following heart surgery at the age of 71. Spear left behind Junjiro Tsuji, his partner of 26 years, and an unforgettable legacy. Since his passing, landmark protections have been won for gay Minnesotans, such as the legalization same-sex marriage in Minnesota on August 1, 2013, and for gays throughout the nation with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision on June 26, 2015.
An antiwar activist, openly gay elected official, advocate for human rights, and a passionate University of Minnesota professor, Allan Spear will be remembered for many things. Above all, however, he should be remembered for being one of the most courageous and influential politicians of our time.
His evenhandedness, command of the issues, and ability to reach across the aisle and work with colleagues of both parties were legendary and should inspire us all. He was a man of great courage who served as one of this nation’s first openly gay legislators.