by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the nation's largest grassroots nonprofit group for families, friends, and straight allies of LGBT people, kicks off its milestone 40th anniversary campaign this week.
'PFLAG Then & Now & 40 Years of Family and Ally Voices' will be a year-long look at where PFLAG started, all that has been achieved since then, and all that is still to be accomplished to achieve full equality for LGBT people. 'PFLAG Then & Now' will also demonstrate how PFLAG's unique family and ally voice has been, and will continue to be, a crucial part of the LGBT movement.
The campaign begins with a look back at the pivotal moment that started the organization: PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford's historic public support of her Gay son, Morty. Forty years ago this week, Manford marched at Morty's side in New York's Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade after learning he had been assaulted due to his sexual orientation while police stood by and did nothing to help him. She was galvanized to take action through a simple act - walking side-by-side with him in the parade, carrying a sign that read 'Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children.'
The response to Manford's gesture was overwhelming, and she was begged by other parade participants to speak to their parents and families. Through the next year, this grassroots movement spread like wildfire and in 1973 Manford, along with a small group of other dedicated parents, founded PFLAG, an organization for parents, families, friends, and straight allies to unite with LGBT people in a shared mission of support, education, and advocacy. That this movement spread so quickly - long before the age of the Internet and mobile phones - was clear evidence of the need for such an organization.
Says PFLAG's current national president, Rabbi David M. Horowitz, 'Then, Jeanne had no legal recourse through which she could protect her son. The press refused to listen to her story and the government was silent in response to her calls for justice. Now, 40 years later, parents, families, friends, and allies of LGBT people have a voice - in large part thanks to PFLAG and its nearly quarter of a million members and supporters, who work relentlessly to create a society that not only protects the rights of their LGBT loved ones, but also celebrates their diversity and loving relationships.'
'Much has changed since 1972,' said PFLAG Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby. 'Then, roughly three-quarters of the U.S. population deemed homosexuality morally wrong, vicious attacks on LGBT people were commonplace, and the idea of equality for Gays and Lesbians was a radical notion.'
Now, 40 years later, there has been a clear shift in policy, press, and public opinion.
PFLAG National will soon release its newest publication, The Hate Crimes Prevention Guide & Toolkit, which will empower PFLAGers and their supporters to understand hate-crime laws and encourage community partnerships with law enforcement.
Huckaby looks forward to PFLAG's year-long celebration. 'Jeanne Manford has been called the Mother of the Straight Ally Movement - the simple act of supporting her Gay child empowered millions of family members and straight allies to do the same, demonstrating the force that a single voice has to transform the push for acceptance and equality for all,' she said. 'Each day we hear stories about the importance of PFLAG's unique family and ally voice in moving equality forward - even our nation's President attributed his evolution on marriage equality to conversations he had with parents, families, and allies of LGBT people - and in our hundreds of chapters across the country, we see the impact our members' unique voices are having in changing hearts and minds.'
To follow PFLAG National's 'PFLAG Then & Now & 40 Years of Family and Ally Voices' campaign, visit www.pflag.org/thenandnow.
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