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BY CLARISSA-JAN LIM | On Sunday, the Church of the Village celebrated the unveiling of a new plaque for PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), now affixed to its front entrance. The plaque commemorates the founding of the groundbreaking advocacy group 40 years ago at the church, at 13th St. and Seventh Ave.
The unveiling ceremony after the service saw a strong turnout of about 50 attendees.
In 1972, after learning that her gay son, Morty, had been beaten up while distributing fliers protesting the lack of concern about gay issues at a dinner event at the Hilton Hotel Ballroom, Jeanne Manford took the initiative of publicly supporting him at the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Manford marched alongside her son, carrying a sign with the words “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children.”
It was a daring and pioneering move on Manford’s part, considering the times, and many individuals approached her during the march to ask if she would talk to their parents. The overwhelmingly positive response inspired Manford to create a support group for families and friends of L.G.B.T. people. The fledgling organization’s first meeting took place a year later at the Church of the Village.
Manford was memorialized in a service earlier this year celebrating her life and legacy, a few months after her passing in January. She was 92.
Today, PFLAG works in partnership with organizations around the world to promote education and provide support among the L.G.B.T. community in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Vietnam, Turkey, France and Germany, according to Drew Tagliabue, PFLAG’s New York City executive director.
The group now has more than 350 chapters and more than 200,000 members in the U.S.
“I think we have come a long way,” said Tagliabue.
Sunday’s upcoming Pride March will see “a couple hundred people” from PFLAG marching with banners and signs, Tagliabue said.
“The New York City chapter is the largest local PFLAG chapter,” he noted. “But there will be people coming from other chapters in Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut and more.”
But it all started with one brave woman, and a group of likeminded parents and family members at a church in the Village 40 years ago.