PFLAG | East County

We help LGBTQ people, parents, family and friends with any issues that they may experience. If they need to be reassured, we reassure them. If they need guidance, we guide them. If they feel the need to cry, they won’t cry alone!

our history


In 1972, Jeanne Manford marched with her son in New York City’s Gay Pride parade, holding a sign that read, “Parents, Unite in Support of our Gay Children.” People standing in the crowd were so moved by Jeanne’s presence that they rushed to her in the street, tears in their eyes, asking that she speak to their parents. Jeanne, with her husband Jules, began a support group. The first formal meeting took place in March of 1973 at a local church with approximately 20 people in attendance.

Across the country in Portland, Oregon, a support and education group for parents of gay and lesbian children was also taking form. In 1973, Oregon witnessed the first documented occurrence of a parent speaking out in support of a gay child. Portland resident Rita Knapp testified in support of gay rights before the Oregon Legislature with a powerful and heartfelt speech surprising legislators not expecting such words from an otherwise unassuming “preacher’s wife”. The next year, Rita and Charles Knapp and Ann and Bill Shepherd began to hold support meetings in their homes, calling the group “Parents of Gays.” In 1976, Ann Shepherd attempted to place an ad in the Oregonian and on several local TV and radio stations to build awareness for the newly formed group, but none would accept the advertisement. Undaunted, the group designed and distributed fliers in Portland’s gay bars and spread information about their organization by word of mouth.
On May 15, 1977 KATU aired a “Town Hall” program on the “question of gays in society”. Members of P-FLAG (as it was then known) were asked to participate. Despite the brutal insults hurled at them, the program introduced P-FLAG and its positive message to the broader community. Ann Shepherd began to receive phone calls from other parents of lesbian and gay children, and the organization grew.
In 1981, leaders of 20 LGBT support groups from around the country met in Los Angeles to form the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. Portland physician Estill Deitz, hearing of the meeting, attended and brought news back to POG’s board, which decided to ally with the nascent national organization. In 1982 POG became P-FLAG Portland and was granted tax exempt status and incorporated in the State of Oregon (dropping the hyphen), thanks to the work of attorney Bill Shepherd.
PFLAG saw a dramatic rise in membership in 1988 with the emergence of the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance (OCA) and its relentless campaigns directed towards our gay and lesbian loved ones. PFLAG Portland was on the front lines throughout the turbulent 1990s.

The past 15 years have seen marvelous changes in Oregon and America. Same-sex marriage is legal in 7 states, domestic partnerships in many more, and over half of America now supports the equality of LGBTQ Americans. The OCA withered and disbanded in the face of changing public opinion. Oregon now has, 35 years after Rita Knapp first testified in favor of it, one of the strongest Sexual Orientation/ Gender Identity Antidiscrimination laws in the country. Domestic Partnerships are a reality, but Marriage Equality is not. A shameful amendment to our state Constitution, Amendment 36 – pushed by new groups inside and outside Oregon continuing the OCA’s campaign of misinformation and hate – denies our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender loved ones’ full inclusion in society. In spite of this setback, PFLAG Portland’s future has never been brighter.

In 2006 PFLAG Portland began focusing on supporting Portland’s Transgender community, a historically underserved and misunderstood community. In 2009 PFLAG Portland became a family with the creation of two satellite chapters serving specific communities in the Metro Area:

  • PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, the first chapter in the nation created for and by the Black/African-American community.
  • PFLAG Portland East County, serves the residents of the East Metro/County Region.

After a brief closure, the PFLAG Portland East County chapter reopened in 2014 under new leadership. Since then it has been thriving well and making positive changes throughout the region. Recognizing that there is a large LGBTQ population in an area that is still somewhat closed, PFLAG Portland East County takes a unique approach by working with local organizations to build awareness and understanding, which paves the way to acceptance. We support our community by keeping as much of our business needs in the region, thus endorsing a “community first” ideology. PFLAG Portland East County is also very active in seeking partnerships. We currently partner with Springwater Studio and TransActive, as well as network with Morrison Family Child Services, Integrity Oregon, The Living Room and GLSEN.
Another approach we are proud of is our partnership with Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education. We both have combined our resources to establish PFLAG Portland East County’s “Professional Development/Continuing Education Program”. This enables us to help and train school officials, educators, therapists, counselors, social workers and case workers in the region to better understand their LGBTQ community and students. These classes and workshops are conducted at various locations in the Portland Metro area. To see more about this particular program please visit our educational page.
As in the past, PFLAG Portland East County will be at the center of this effort with our powerful message:
We, too, are “family”.


PFLAG phone hotline

(503) 232-7676

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

120 SW Towle Ave
Gresham, OR 97080

Lurissa Sponsler-Overby

Eric Overby

If you are interested in learning more or if you need support, please attend one of our meetings. They are held on the first Wednesday of every month at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. For current events, visit our Facebook page.

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