The daughter of the founder the straight ally group Parents and Friends of Gay and Lesbians accepted the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal on behalf of her late mother from President Barack Obama on Friday (15 February).
Jeanne Manford, who founded PFLAG in 1972, died last month at the age of 92. So her daughter, Suzanne Swan, traveled to The White House and stood in her place as Obama handed the nation’s second-highest civilian honor to Manford and 12 other honorees.
Said Obama at the ceremony: ‘When Jeanne Manford learned that her son Morty had been badly beaten up at a gay rights demonstration, nobody would have faulted her for bringing him home, holding him close, just focusing on her child. This was back in 1972. There was a lot of hate, a lot of vitriol towards gays and lesbians and anyone who supported them. But instead, she wrote to the local newspaper and took to the streets with a simple message: No matter who her son was — no matter who he loved –- she loved him, and wouldn’t put up with this kind of nonsense.’
Obama explained the impact Manford’s action had.
‘In that simple act, she inspired a movement and gave rise to a national organization that has given so much support to parents and families and friends, and helped to change this country,’ he said. ‘We lost Jeanne last month, but her legacy carries on, every day, in the countless lives that she touched.’
After her letter to The Post began to get attention, Manford began giving interviews to radio and television shows in several cities. In June of 1972, 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.