Suzanne Swan with President Obama at a White House ceremony on Friday (left). Jeanne Manford in a 1993 photo, holding a photo of her son, Morty Manford. Photo of Swan and Obama by Susan Walsh, Associated Press; Manford photo courtesy PFLAG.
Jeanne Manford, the pioneering straight ally in the gay rights movement, and the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), was honored posthumously with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, at a White House ceremony on Friday.
In 1972, Manford launched a campaign for tolerance for gays and lesbians after her son, Morty, was assaulted at a gay rights demonstration.
It was Manford’s vision to give parents a place to ask questions, talk about their issues, and begin to better understand and accept their gay and lesbian children. With her husband, Dr. Jules Manford, she created a support group that eventually evolved into PFLAG, a national organization that today has more than 350 chapters.
The Presidential Citizens Medal recognizes Americans who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”
Manford’s daughter, Suzanne Swan, accepted the award on behalf of her late mother.