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Orlando and the world reflects on the life of Billy Manes

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"In Billy's short time with us, he made an indelible impact on our city and our country. He was a prominent Orlando journalist and commentator, and the power of his words moved and amused central Florida. Billy broke barriers, becoming the first openly gay mayoral candidate in Orlando's history. After the tragic loss of his partner in 2012, Billy bravely told his story to the world, putting a human face on the pressing need for equal rights for same-sex couples." – U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, in a statement to Speaker Paul Ryan for the Congressional Record

"Billy Manes, a reporter and LGBTQ activist in our community, passed away last week. He was always a vibrant force of nature with a healthy dose of wit who loved our City and helped make Orlando fiercely unique." – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

"The first time I met Billy was just over a year ago. It was one of the most difficult times in Orlando's history – days after a gunman killed 49 people at a gay club. Billy Manes was an anchor and a voice for a community that needed both. And even in the middle of his grief and the fear of another attack, he couldn't help but crack a joke." – Ari Shapiro, NPR

"The thing about Billy was that he was not a fragile man. He was that palm tree bending in the hurricane that managed to survive the storm. Billy had survived bad things. And instead of building a wall around himself and those bad things, like many do, Billy shared them. He made himself vulnerable to others. He allowed other people, strangers even, to share their bad things with him. He didn't do this with a fake superficiality. He was all in. He actually helped people survive in the world." – Orlando filmmaker Vicki Nantz, who made the film "Billy & Alan"

"It's hard to describe the impact that Billy's column "Blister" had on me when I moved here to work at Orlando Weekly. Migrating from the Deep South of South Carolina, I had never read anything so outrageous and fabulous that so honestly and accurately chronicled my life at the time, and those of so many gay men of my generation. To see this every week in a local, general-market publication with the reach of Orlando Weekly and have it received with such a degree of acceptance and popularity played a huge part in assuring me I had found the right publication and the right community to call home.

"Over the years, Billy progressed, and I came to know him more as a person. To say he was a brilliant star that burned out too soon is an understatement. His absence will leave a black hole in the fabric of Orlando. His impact on Central Florida and shaping the voice of Orlando Weekly is immeasurable. I have never worked with any writer with such a razor-sharp wit, who could so effectively make us double over with laughter, tears and outrage, all in equal measure. Billy Manes, you are already so missed and will be for many years to come. May you finally rest in peace, my talented, funny and fabulous colleague and friend." – Graham Jarrett, Orlando Weekly publisher

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