On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the Mother of the Straight Ally movement passed away, according to a statement issued by Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby. She was 92.
Manford was one of the LGBTQ community’s biggest allies, fighting for acceptance and equality for 40 years. Her fight began in April of 1972 when her and her husband learned that their son Morty, a gay activist, had been beaten and ended up in the hospital. After her son’s attack, Manford penned a letter to The New York Post, stating “I have a homosexual son and I love him.”
While only a school teacher at the time, Manford quickly identified herself as a mother of a gay protestor and marched in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade holding a sign that read “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children.”
With that simple message, she ignited support from thousands from around the country. Prompted by the response she built “a bridge between the gay community and the heterosexual community” and created PFLAG. Today, the organization has 350 chapters across the U.S. and over 200,000 members.
In 2009, President Obama regarded her selfless work as “the story of America…of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury.”
“All of us—people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike—owe Jeanne our gratitude,” Huckaby said in a statement. “We are all beneficiaries of her courage. Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world. She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.”