BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
In the 1970s, in the middle of a quiet street of Flushing townhouses, one family built a home that would become a refuge not only for their own gay son, but also for gay children throughout the country, generations to come.
Jeanne and Jules Manford, parents of gay activist Morty Manford, founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 1973. Their first meeting had about 20 attendees.
Today, PFLAG is a national organization with more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members worldwide.
On April 26, Councilmen Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) joined several other elected officials and friends and family of the Manfords, to designate 171st Street between 33rd and 35th Avenues – where the Manford house still stands – with the co-name Jeanne, Jules, Morty Manford PFLAG Way.
At the ceremony, former Assemblyman John Duane, brother of former State Sen. Thomas Duane – who was the first openly gay member of both the City Council and State Legislature – remembered the haven the Manfords provided for gay kids in the community.
“When things got unbearable, we would walk to the Manford house. We were always welcome,” Duane said.
He added, “when I look at what my brother has accomplished, and I look at where it started, I have to say, ‘thank you, Manford family.’”
Dromm also knew the Manfords personally.
“My hope is this co-naming will not only honor the Manfords, but encourage all New Yorkers to stand up for equality.”
Jeanne Manford was the first parent to stand publicly in support of a gay child when she marched alongside Morty in the 1972 gay pride parade.
During his remarks, Vallone considered the strides gay rights have made since this pivotal moment in LGBT history.
“When you say ‘parents and friends of gays and lesbians,’” Vallone said, “that’s all of us now.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.