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Topics In the News
Dr. Jill Biden Keynotes PFLAG Convention
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/05/11
Last updated on: 11/05/11
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Dr. Jill Biden.

On November 4, 2011, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President of the United States, opened the biennial National Convention of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Alexandria, Virginia.

PFLAG traces its origins to New York City in 1972, when the parents of Morty Manford saw their son assaulted at a gay rights rally on their local television news and were appalled that the police had failed to come to his aid. Jeanne Manford decided to take action. The following year she marched alongside Morty at the Pride Parade, carrying a sign that read "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children."

The emotional response to her participation in the Pride Parade led her to establish a support group for other parents of gay and lesbian children. From a meeting of about 20 parents in New York City, the organization has grown to become one of the largest glbtq organizations in the world, counting hundreds of chapters and hundreds of thousands of members.

In recent years, the organization has lobbied on behalf of safe schools and in favor of marriage equality.

Dr. Biden began her remarks with an inspiring story:

"I recently read an open letter written from a PFLAG father to America's youth. He wrote, 'My wife and I have two sons. We think that they are the best kids in the whole world. They're very different, with very diverse personalities, talents, and interests. One of the other things that makes them different is that one is straight and one is gay. But the important thing is this: we love them equally.'"

"At its core," she continued, "it's such a simple message--'we love our sons'--both of them. But that acceptance and support can make all the difference."

"And as you all know well--acceptance by those you love is the greatest acceptance of all."

In her remarks, Dr. Biden paid tribute to Jeanne Manford, saying, "As a teacher and a mom, I know what Jeanne Manford knew--that there is a direct connection between acceptance and positive, healthy outcomes in every important area of life, including education, mental health, and physical health."

She also rehearsed the achievements of the Obama administration in furthering equal rights: "I'm proud of the progress the Obama-Biden Administration has made in the last two years for the LGBT community--including the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The White House also held a Conference on Bullying Prevention, and the Department of Education has held summits on this issue as well, and issued guidance to help combat bullying in schools and support Gay Straight Alliances."

"This progress is important," she said, but added, "there is still more to do. At this critical time for education in our country, we need to ensure that our schools are producing the next generation of American leaders and heroes. We must insure that our classrooms are safer for all students to learn, grow, and thrive."

In her conclusion, she urged members of PFLAG to continue their much needed work: "I want to say to each of you here today: thank you for raising your voice and working together to open minds, shift attitudes and support all of our sons and daughters, students and neighbors. Some of you come from places where yours is the only voice of support and acceptance--but when you speak, people listen. And we need you to keep speaking out, to keep shining a light on this important issue."

Dr. Biden did not mention it, but in November 2010, her husband contributed a moving video to the "It Gets Better" channel established by Dan Savage.

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