Renaming of Jackson Heights Post Office for gay rights pioneers moves forward

By Bill Parry

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation Tuesday to rename the Jackson Heights Post Office in honor of Jeanne and Jules Manford, the late Flushing residents who fought for the advancement of equal rights for LGBT Americans. U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) introduced the bill while U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this month.

“Last week, we faced a terrible and tragic attack on the LGBT community in Orlando,” Crowley said on the House floor prior to the vote. “Today, we stand in honor of two individuals who, when faced with a hateful act of violence themselves, were inspired to start a movement couched in acceptance and support. Jeanne and Jules were instrumental in the fight for equal rights, and their incredible legacy can be felt throughout Queens, New York, and they entire country. It is only fitting that we name the post office that sits along the route of the Queens Pride Parade in their honor.”

Jeanne Manford publicly denounced the beating of her gay son, Morty Manford, for protesting news coverage of the LGBT rights movement in 1972.

Later that year, Jeanne and her husband, Jules, founded the Parents’ Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization that advocates on behalf of the LBGT community as well as their families and friends. The couple opened their Flushing home, at 171st Street off 35th Avenue to gay New Yorkers who were outcasts in their own homes.

They became pioneers in the American gay rights movement and today, PFLG has more than 350 chapters and over 200,000 members in all 50 states.

“Jeanne and Jules showed how love and passion can move us to make a positive change in our community,” Gillibrand said. “Their advocacy is deeply ingrained in the LGBT community here in New York and around the country — beginning with their unmatched love for their son, to the Queens Pride Parade that marches every year on 37th Avenue, to their founding of an organization that for the last 44 years has fought for LGBT equality. This designation would be a fitting tribute to honor their courage in their decades-long fight for the LGBT community.”

After her death in 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded Jeanne Manford the Presidential Citizens Medal, one of the highest honors an American civilian can receive, for her advocacy work. Jules Manford died in 1982.

Morty Manford was a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance, which he was heavily involved with until he died from AIDS in 1992.

“Jeanne and Jules Manford were not only loving, accepting parents to their openly-gay son, Morty, but they also served as loving, accepting parents to the entire LGBT community,” Schumer said. “It is a truly fitting tribute to the Manford’s legacy of work.”

Jeanne Manford was the original grand marshal of the Queens Pride, which passes in front of the Jackson Heights Post Office, located at 78-02 37th Ave.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who founded the march and festival, applauded the House vote.

“Jeanne and Jules Manford were the ‘parents’ of the gay rights movement, they allowed their home to be used as the cradle for gay liberation and were the first parents of an openly gay child to support that child in public,” Dromm said. “Jeanne and Jules blazed new trails for the LGBT community by standing up for their openly gay son Morty Manford. This renaming is a fitting tribute to the Manfords and all they believed.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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