On March 11, 1973, the first formal meeting of “Parents of Gays,” co-founded by the parents of a gay son, is held in a church in Greenwich Village in New York. In 1982, it became a national organization called “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays,” or PFLAG—the largest family and ally organization in the United States for the LGBTQ community.
The year before the first meeting, co-founder Jeanne Manford’s son Morty and other gay advocates had been attacked while handing out fliers at a political event at a New York hotel. Manford, a teacher, and her husband, Jules, became incensed when police nearby did not intervene.
Later in 1972, Jeanne Manford marched in New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, a precursor to gay pride events, carrying a sign reading: “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.” Many LGBTQ people at the event begged her to talk with their own parents.
“The young people were hugging me, kissing me, screaming, asking if I would talk to their parents,” Jeanne Manford said in a 1996 interview with Newsday. “Very few of them were out to their parents for fear of rejection.”
Even before the parade, Jeanne and Jules—who died in 1982—had been discussing forming a support group for parents of gay people. About 20 people attended the first meeting.
In a 2009 speech, President Barack Obama praised Jeanne Manford’s efforts as an LGBTQ advocate, saying her work was “the story of America, of ordinary citizens agitating and advocating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury.”
Manford, who served as grand marshal for the 1991 New York City Gay Pride March, died in 2013. She was 92. Morty Manford, who became an assistant New York attorney general, died from complications of AIDS in 1992.