Jeanne Manford, who founded the straight ally group Parents and Friends of Gay and Lesbians (PFLAG) in 1972, will posthumously receive 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal next week from President Barack Obama.
Manford died last month at the age of 92 but part of her legacy will now be as a recipient of nation’s second-highest civilian honor. It is given to those who display a commitment to public service.
‘Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country,’ Obama said Friday (8 February) of Manford and the other 12 honorees for 2012.
The group was selected from more than 6,000 nominees and will be honored next Friday (15 February) at The White House.
Manford was an elementary school teacher living in Flushing, Queens in the early 70s when her activism began.
She got a call in April 1972 from a hospital where her gay activist son Morty was taken after being beaten. He had been distributing flyers inside the fiftieth annual Inner Circle dinner, a political gathering in New York City.
She wrote a letter to the New York Post complaining about police inaction and began giving interviews to radio and television shows in several cities. In June of that year, she participated with her son in the New York Pride March, carrying a hand-lettered sign that read ‘Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children.’
The reaction to them was so strong that she decided to form Parents of Gay (POG) which became PFLAG in 1993. The group is meant to be ‘a bridge between the gay community and the heterosexual community.’
Morty Manford died from AIDS complications in 1992 but his mother continued her activism throughout the rest of her life.