PFLAG founder wins presidential medal

The White House announced Wednesday (February 13) that President Obama has selected PFLAG co-founder Jeanne Manford as one of 13 Presidential Citizens Medal recipients for 2012. Manford, who died at the age of 92 just last month, helped co-found Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in 1972, carrying a sign in a Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in New York saying “Parents of Gays unite in support for our children.”

The award will be presented to Manford’s daughter Suzanne Manford Swan in a ceremony at the White House on Friday, February 15. In a blogpost on the PFLAG website, Swan said her mother learned about the award before she passed away.

“I only wish the President could have seen the amazing smile that spread across her face,” said Suzanne Manford Swan, daughter of the late Jeanne Manford. “My family is deeply touched by this honor and to represent the PFLAG family values of love and acceptance.”

According to a White House press release identifying the list of recipients, chosen from among more than 6,000 nominees, Manford “always support her son Morty, but was inspired to act after the police failed to intervene while Morty was beaten and hospitalized during a Gay Activists Alliance demonstration in April 1972.

“Today, PFLAG focuses on creating a network of support and advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” notes the White House press release. The Presidential Citizens Medal was established in 1969 to recognize American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens. President Obama is recognizing Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention.

Manford’s establishment of PFLAG in New York City spread quickly to other cities across the country, and caught the attention of numerous talk show hosts who were eager to hear her story. By 1981, the network of PFLAG chapters had established a national organization that has since grown to include more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members.

In 2011, the president awarded one of the medals to Janice Langbehn, who filed a lawsuit drawing attention to the difficulties gay couples face when confronted with a hospital emergency. Her story prompted President Obama to issue a directive that all hospitals receiving federal funding allow gay patients the right to choose who can visit them.

Nominations for the 2013 Presidential Citizens Medal can be submitted up until March 31 of this year at

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