(WB) Former Maryland Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., who enabled the passage of marriage equality and other LGBT rights bills in the state, died on Friday at age 78.

“Maryland has lost one of its most revered leaders,” Republican Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted. “And I have lost a dear lifelong friend.”

Miller was first elected as a Democratic senator representing Calvert County in 1974 and rose to Senate president where he served for over 30 years.

“At his core, Mike was who you saw,” said state Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), the current Senate president, in a press release. “He was a hard worker, he was ethical … As a result of his tenacity and spirit, he was able to shepherd vitally important legislation to the Senate floor, through the House, and to the governor for signature.”

Though he was a social conservative, Miller allowed the 2012 same-sex marriage bill to come up for a Senate vote where it eventually passed and was signed by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley. He also thanked then-Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) for introducing a bill banning discrimination against transgender Marylanders, which O’Malley signed into law in 2014. 

Miller ended his long tenure as Senate president in 2019 due to a Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis and was replaced by Ferguson. Miller would stay on in his position as senator and Senate president emeritus. 

“For over 50 years, Mike served the people of Maryland in the General Assembly,” Ferguson said. “First as a staffer to the Prince George’s County delegation; then as a member of the House of Delegates, a member of the Senate, chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee; and for 32 years, as president of the Maryland Senate. He concluded this extraordinary period of service as Senate president emeritus.”

However, in December the cancer continued to spread causing him to retire from the General Assembly completely. The Washington Post reported Miller told reporters during a virtual news conference from his home that “the cancer is in all my bones” and his body was “racked with pain.”

Ferguson noted stepping down as a senator was difficult even in the midst of his devastating condition, but stated in his release “the physical burden was too much to bear.”

Moments after news of Miller’s death was announced on social media, condolences for the nation’s longest-serving Senate leader came pouring in.

“Maryland lost a giant and I have lost a dear friend,” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeted. “Governors have come and gone, but Mike Miller was a historic figure and force of nature pushing Maryland forward. His legacy of results for our state is unmatched. Katherine and I send our love to Patty and his family.”

Miller is survived by his wife, five children and numerous grandchildren.

“On this day of his passing,” Ferguson said. “Let it be known, Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. spent every single day of his life as a public servant working as hard as possible to ensure others had the ability and means to live a life with purpose, just as he did his.”