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Gay Officials Who Blazed Trails

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post staff writer Ann Hornaday is not the only one recently to assert that Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States ["By Delivering Poignant Depth, 'Milk' Hits the Stirring Heights," Style, Nov. 26].

Milk was the first openly gay person elected in California, in November 1977, but Allan Spear was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1972. Spear came out in 1974 and was reelected in 1976. He served for 28 years and retired in 2000. The last seven years of his time in office, he served as president of the Senate. Spear passed away this past Oct. 11, which was ironic since the date is National Coming Out Day.

For the record, Kathy Kozachenko became the first openly gay person elected to public office in the United States in January 1974 when she was elected to the Ann Arbor (Mich.) City Council.

In November that year, after a campaign that included bullets fired through the windows of her campaign office, Elaine Noble made international news when she was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Like Milk, Noble is often incorrectly cited as the first openly gay elected official.

-- Ron Schlittler

Washington

The writer is the creator of "Out and Elected in the USA," a photo-text project housed at http://www.OutHistory.org.

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