By National PFLAG and Leo Romo
On Feb. 15, President Obama awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal to PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford. PFLAG is the acronym for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national organization that supports LGBT individuals and families. Mrs. Manford’s daughter, Suzanne Swan, accepted the award on behalf of her mother, who passed away last month, at the age of 92.
“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, and just focusing on her child,” said President Obama. “But instead…she took to the streets with a simple message: No matter who her son was, no matter who he loved, she loved him.”
The President personally selected Mrs. Manford as one of the 18 recipients of the medal, which is the second-highest civilian award in our country, and recognizes individuals “whose service has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve.”
Upon the presentation of the medal, the President’s military aid announced, “For insisting that equality knows no bounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, the United States honors Jeanne Manford.”
This is an extraordinary and unprecedented honor for Jeanne Manford, her family, and PFLAG members and supporters everywhere. The message is powerful: the voices of parents, family members, friends, and straight allies, united with the voice of LGBT people, is critical to the advancement of acceptance and equality.
The ceremony marks only the second time an individual has been honored for advancing LGBT rights. In 2011, the president awarded one of the medals to Janice Langbehn, who filed a lawsuit drawing attention to the difficulties gay couples face when confronted with a hospital emergency. Her story prompted President Obama to issue a directive that all hospitals receiving federal funding allow gay patients the right to choose who can visit them.