By Bill Parry
On the eve of Gay Pride Month, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) joined several elected officials last week 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Jeanne Manford, with her husband, formed Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays known as PFLAG after their openly gay son Morty was beaten for protesting news coverage of the gay rights movement in 1972. She was the original grand marshal of the Queens Pride Parade, which City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) 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.”
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 Sen. Jose Peralta (D-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 the legislation 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.”