Jeanne Manford


In 1972, Jeanne Manford started an international movement when she marched with her son Mortie in NYC gay pride parade. Enraged that her son had been beaten at a gay rights protest 2 months before while police did nothing, she carried a sign at the Pride March that said, “Parents of Gays, Unite in Support of our Children”. The first formal meeting took place in March 1973 at a local church. Approximately 20 people attended.

In the next years, through word of mouth and in response to community need, similar groups sprang up around the country, offering "safe havens" and mutual support for parents with gay and lesbian children. Following the 1979 National March for Gay and Lesbian Rights, representatives from these groups met for the first time in Washington, D.C.

By 1980, PFLAG, then known as Parents FLAG, began to distribute information to educational institutions and communities of faith nationwide and established itself as a source of information for the general public.  When “Dear Abby” mentioned PFLAG, more than 7,000 letters were received requesting information. In 1981, members decided to launch a national organization. The first PFLAG office was established in Los Angeles under founding president Adele Starr.

In 1982, the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc., then representing some 20 groups, was incorporated in California and granted non-profit, tax-exempt status. In 1987, PFLAG re-located to Denver, under President Ellinor Lewallen. Also in the 1980’s, PFLAG became involved in opposing Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade and worked to end the U.S. military’s efforts to discharge lesbians—more than a decade before military issues came to the forefront of the GLBT movement.  And by the late 1980’s, PFLAG began to have notable success in organizing chapters in rural and Bible Belt states like Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

In the early 1990s, PFLAG chapters in Massachusetts helped pass the first Safe Schools legislation in the country. In 1993, PFLAG added the word "Families" to the name, and added bisexuals to its mission and work. By the mid-1990s a PFLAG family was responsible for the Department of Education’s ruling that Title 9 also protected gay and lesbian students from harassment based on sexual orientation. Also in the mid-1990s, PFLAG put the Religious Right on the defensive, when Pat Robertson threatened to sue any station that carried our Project Open Mind advertisements showing examples of his anti-gay statements.  The resulting media coverage drew national attention to our message linking hate speech with hate crimes and GLBT teen suicide. In 1998, PFLAG added transgender people and their loved ones.