PFLAG founder and gay rights ally Jeanne Manford dies

President Barack Obama called Manford’s story "the story of America... of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change."

Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG — Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — died Tuesday at age 92.

Manford died at her home in Daly City, Calif., according to WNYC radio.

She was a schoolteacher in Queens, N.Y., when she founded the organization in 1972, PFLAG National Executive Director Jody Huckaby said in a statement.

Her son Morty was beaten when he and other gay rights activists stormed a political dinner to protest the media and government turning a blind eye to gay issues.

Manford wrote a letter to the New York Post identifying herself as the mother of a protester who was beaten, marched with her son in a gay pride parade and made media appearances in support of gay rights.

Her response blossomed into PFLAG, founded as a bridge between the gay and heterosexual communities.

The organization exists today with more than 350 chapters across the U.S. and 200,000 members and supporters.

"Jeanne was one of the fiercest fighters in the battle for acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people," Huckaby said. "It is truly humbling to imagine in 1972 — just 40 years ago — a simple schoolteacher started this movement of family and ally support, without benefit of any of the technology that today makes a grassroots movement so easy to organize. No Internet. No cellphones. Just a deep love for her son and a sign reading 'Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.'"

In a 2009 speech, President Barack Obama called Manford’s story "the story of America... of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury."

She will be buried in a private ceremony, with a public celebration of her life and legacy to be announced.

_____

MSN News on Facebook and Twitter
Stay up to date on breaking news and current events.
Friend us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/news.msn
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msnnews