Today, President Obama awarded the Presidential Citizens Medals to several recipients, among whom was the late Jeanne Manford, who publicly defended her gay son and founded Parents, Friends, & Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to advocate for other gay sons. Here is what Obama said about her in his remarks:
When Jeanne Manford learned that her son Morty had been badly beaten up at a gay rights demonstration, nobody would have faulted her for bringing him home, holding him close, just focusing on her child. This was back in 1972. There was a lot of hate, a lot of vitriol towards gays and lesbians and anyone who supported them. But instead, she wrote to the local newspaper and took to the streets with a simple message: No matter who her son was — no matter who he loved –- she loved him, and wouldn’t put up with this kind of nonsense. And in that simple act, she inspired a movement and gave rise to a national organization that has given so much support to parents and families and friends, and helped to change this country. We lost Jeanne last month, but her legacy carries on, every day, in the countless lives that she touched. […]
Accepting on behalf of Jeanne Manford, her daughter Suzanne Swan. (Applause.) In an era when peaceful protests were met with violence and coming out was a radical act, Jeanne Manford knew she had to stand by her son, Morty. Side-by-side, they marched proudly down the streets of New York on Stonewall’s anniversary, calling upon other parents of gay and lesbian Americans to show their children the same love and acceptance. Jeanne’s courage lives on in progress she fought for and in PFLAG, the organization she founded, which today claims more than 200,000 members and supporters in over 350 chapters. For insisting that equality knows no bounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, the United States honors Jeanne Manford. (Applause.)
The Presidential Citizens Medal is the second highest civilian award, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.