BY BILL PARRY | On the eve of LGBT Pride Month, US Representative Joe Crowley, a Jackson Heights Democrat, joined other elected officials to announce legislation to rename the Jackson Heights Post Office in honor of Jeanne and Jules Manford, the late Queens residents and national heroes who fought for the advancement of equal rights for LGBT Americans.
The Manfords founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now known as PFLAG, after their out gay son Morty was beaten in 1972 during a protest over news coverage of the gay rights movement. Jeanne was the original grand marshal of the Queens LGBT Pride Parade, which City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, also a Jackson Heights Democrat, founded in 1993.
“Through their unconditional love of their openly gay son, Jeanne and Jules Manford helped change the hearts and minds of so many people in Queens and throughout the city of New York,” Crowley said.
Queens congressmember introduces bill to honor PFLAG founders in Jackson Heights
The Manfords established PFLAG to promote the rights, health, and well-being of the LGBT community as well as their families and friends. Today, PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and over 200,000 members in all 50 states.
“Jeanne and Jules Manford were the parents of the gay rights movement,” Dromm said. “They were the first parents of an openly gay child to support that child in public.”
State Senator José Peralta, a Democrat from East Elmhurst, recalled how Jeanne Manford wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post in 1972 saying, “I have a homosexual son and I love him.” Peralta said those words brought momentum to a movement.
“While people were associating the gay rights movement with Christopher Street in Manhattan, here in Queens Jeanne and Jules were fighting for equal rights,” he said.
Morty’s sister, Suzanne Manford Swan, the only surviving member of the family, sent words of support for Crowley’s effort from her West Coast home.
“My mother and father’s love and acceptance of their son’s homosexuality became a guiding light for parents and friends struggling with the unhappy social mores of the time,” she said. “They were both born and lived their entire lives in Queens. They loved it there and loved all Queens had to offer. They would be so pleased to have this post office named after them.”
In February 2013, President Barack Obama honored Jeanne Manford posthumously — just a month after her death — with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second highest civilian honor.
“Jeanne Manford proved the power of a single person to transform the world,” Jody Huckaby, PFLAG’s national executive director, said at the time of her death at age 92. “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.”