Newspaper article

Trailblazing DFL Lawmakers Karen Clark and Susan Allen Won't Seek Re-Election in 2018

Newspaper article

Trailblazing DFL Lawmakers Karen Clark and Susan Allen Won't Seek Re-Election in 2018

Article excerpt

Karen Clark is the longest-serving openly lesbian legislator in the nation, while Susan Allen was the first Native American woman elected to the Minnesota Legislature. On Friday, both pioneering Minneapolis representatives said they don’t plan to seek re-election to the Minnesota House in 2018.

“I got elected the same day as Ronald Reagan, by the way,” Clark, now serving her 19th term, said at a press conference announcing the two lawmakers' retirements on Friday. “I was young and I thought we could change things overnight and that was a real wakeup call.”

Things didn’t change overnight, but throughout her 37 years in office, Clark was a champion of LGBTQ rights, authoring an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act in 1993 that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. In 2012, she led the campaign against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and the next year she authored the House bill to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota — efforts that led her to be recognized by President Barack Obama as a “Harvey Milk Champion of Change.”

Clark, who has a degree in nursing, also pushed numerous landmark health-related proposals, including a bill that required workplaces to inform its workers if they are exposed to toxic chemicals on the job. She also authored the first bill in Minnesota to require worker’s compensation in some sexual harassment cases.

The recent wave of sexual harassment allegations cropping up across the nation — and in the Minnesota Legislature — shows just how deep-seated the problem is, Clark said. “There’s resistance everywhere, and that’s very hopeful to me,” she said.

Allen, who is also gay, Grew up as a member of the Rosebud Tribe in South Dakota, and works as a tribal and tax law attorney when not working on legislative business. She was first elected to the Legislature in a 2012 special election to replace Rep. Jeff Hayden, who moved to the Senate after he won a special election to replace retiring Sen. …

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