Allan H. Spear, a former Minnesota state senator who was one of the nation’s first openly gay legislators, has died. He was 71.

He died Saturday of complications after heart surgery performed Thursday, said Don Jorovsky, a longtime friend who used to work for Spear.

Spear, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party — Minnesota’s version of the Democratic Party — was first elected in 1972 and was state Senate president from 1993 to 2000, when he retired. He was the first non-attorney to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Spear announced he was gay in a 1974 interview with the Minneapolis Star, becoming one of only two openly gay legislators in the country. Spear started working that decade to amend Minnesota’s Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The legislation passed in 1993.

Read the full story from the Associated Press.