Crowley Recognizes Late LGBT Rights Advocate and Queens Resident Jeanne Manford as National Hero

May 30, 2014
Press Release

Rep. Crowley recognizes the legacy of Jeanne Manford on the House floor. Click here to watch.

On Eve of Queens Pride Parade, Crowley Announces House Resolution to Honor Manford’s Life and Work

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, announced he will be introducing a resolution honoring the life and work of Jeanne Manford, a fellow Queens resident and national hero who fought for the advancement of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

“As the proud mother of a gay son, Jeanne Manford opened the doors that led to great progress on LGBT equality over the past few decades,” said Rep. Crowley. “Jeanne’s unconditional love helped change the hearts and minds of so many people in Queens and throughout the City of New York. She leaves behind an incredible legacy of courage and humanity and today, we live in a more just society because of her work.”

In April of 1972, Jeanne’s openly gay son Morty was beaten for protesting news coverage of the gay rights movement. After the attack, Jeanne and her husband formed Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now known as PFLAG, to promote the rights, health, and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, as well as their families and friends. The organization has grown to become a positive and influential voice calling for an end to discrimination and the attainment of equality.

In February 2013, just a month after her death, President Obama posthumously awarded Jeanne the Presidential Citizens Medal for her advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.

Crowley will march in the 2014 Queens Pride Parade on Sunday, June 1. Founded by Queens Council Member Daniel Dromm, the parade is a testament to the broad diversity of the Queens community. Manford served as the original grand marshal of the Queens Pride Parade and this year, Dromm and fellow LGBT members of the City Council will serve as the grand marshals.            

The full text of the resolution is below:

RESOLUTION

Honoring the life of Jeanne Sobelson Manford for her fierce advocacy on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as they and their allies celebrate Pride month during the month of June, reflect on the progress made towards equality, and remember activists like Jeanne who spent their lives fighting for their rights.

Whereas Jeanne Sobelson Manford was born in Queens, New York on December 4, 1920, to Charles and Sadie Sobelson;

Whereas she earned her bachelor’s degree from the City University of New York’s Queens College and became an elementary school teacher at P.S. 32;

Whereas she married her husband Jules Manford and had three children Charles, Morty, and Suzanne;

Whereas in April 1972, her openly gay son Morty was beaten during a gay rights protest;

Whereas in the aftermath of her son’s beating Jeanne, together with her husband Jules, became a staunch advocate of LGBT rights;

Whereas while marching in one of New York City’s first Pride parades, known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, on June 25, 1972 with her son, Jeanne carried a now-famous sign reading, “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for our Children”;

Whereas this important show of support was the impetus for her founding the organization Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, now known as PFLAG;

Whereas in the more than 41 years since its first meeting at the Church of the Village in Greenwich Village in 1973, PFLAG has expanded to a national organization with more than 350 chapters and over 200,000 members in all 50 states;

Whereas PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression;

Whereas PFLAG, through its core values of meeting people where they are and collaborating with others, seeks to relay its vision through support for families, allies, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ), education about the unique issues and challenges that people who are LGBTQ face, and advocacy in communities to change attitudes and create policies and laws that achieve full equality for people who are LGBTQ;

Whereas Jeanne Manford became an advocate for people with AIDS because of the death of her son and so many others whose lives were far too short;

Whereas Jeanne Manford was honored as the Grand Marshal of the first Queens Pride Parade, held in June 1993;

Whereas on Sunday, June 1, 2014, officials, community leaders, and residents will participate in the 22nd annual Queens Pride Parade and on June 29 the City of New York will hold its 44th Annual Pride Parade;

Whereas the tremendous efforts of Jeanne Manford and many others have opened doors for individuals to be open with their families at home and with their colleagues in their places of work;

Whereas lesbian and gay employees of the Federal Government and members of the United States Armed Forces may serve their Nation with the dignity they deserve and without the need to shield an important part of their identity;

Whereas since the landmark decision of United States v. Windsor invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, courts have continuously overturned State bans on same-sex marriage, leading to equal marriage rights for people in 19 States and the District of Columbia and legal challenges to same-sex marriage bans pending in 30 other States;

Whereas this extraordinary show of support represents a rapid change in attitudes sparked by the important work of advocates like Jeanne Sobelson Manford;

Whereas on January 8, 2013, at the age of 92, just 6 months before the Windsor decision, Jeanne Manford passed away and the LGBT community lost a long-time champion for civil rights, but celebrated her extraordinary legacy;

Whereas when President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Jeanne the Presidential Citizens Medal on February 15, 2013, he remarked that Jeanne, “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.”;

Whereas Jeanne demonstrated to us in her life and inspires us today through her legacy that one voice can change the world; 

Whereas Jeanne’s courage lives on in PFLAG’s work and in the progress for which she fought; and

Whereas Jeanne Manford insisted that equality knows no bounds, including that of sexual orientation or gender identity: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives –

  1. honors the life and work of Jeanne Sobelson Manford
  1. recognizes Jeanne Sobelson Manford as a national hero who advanced the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States; and
  1. commends Jeanne Sobelson Manford for helping to realize the founders’ goal of creating a more perfect union based on the ideal that all men and women are created equal.

Congressman Crowley is the eight-term representative from the 14th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and serves as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives.