The founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays or PFLAG was honored with a posthumous Presidential Citizen's Medal Friday afternoon in Washington.
One of Jeanne Manford sons, Morty Manford was gay, and was beaten at a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972, where police failed to intervene. She wrote a letter to the New York Post, published April 29, 1972, in which she stated, "I have a homosexual son, and I love him." Her letter sparked a groundswell of response, and less than two months later, she joined her son at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade. Her participation and the affirmations she received from others eventually led to the beginning of PFLAG, in 1973.
Jeanne Manford died in January at the age of 92. Manford's surviving daughter Suzzane Swan accepted the honor from President Barack Obama on her mother's behalf.
"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," President Obama said in a ceremony. "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. And 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. We lost Jeanne last month, but her legacy carries on, every day, in the countless lives that she touched."