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No one could fairly accuse us of ignoring our brethren and sistren of the homosexual persuasion; we do employ Billy Manes, after all. But our critics might point out that we've yet to devote a significant chunk of our newsprint real estate in a single issue to gay and lesbian issues. And they'd be correct. Until now.

This week, with the 17th running of Gay Days, Orlando becomes the center of the gay universe, which makes this the perfect time to debut our Queer Issue. We've tried to mix it up a little, some fun stuff with some serious stuff with some service- oriented stuff.

On the serious side, the issue kicks off with a piece by Jeffrey C. Billman about former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood's gay legacy. It turns out the Republican Hood was much more proactive on the gay-rights front than her successor, "progressive" Democrat Buddy Dyer. Next comes a piece sure to piss off a few voters: Bob Whitby's call for the end of gay Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan's tenure. That's followed by an obit for Sue Hannah, the loved, admired and recently departed "chairman of the broads." Billy Manes ends the "serious" portion of our show with an update on hate crimes legislation.

Staff writer Deanna Sheffield did a little digging on Gay Days itself and turned in reports on how the event is now more popular with women and more family-friendly. Then calendar editor Amber Guffey pulled a few of the best Gay Days events out for you in a handy-dandy, clippable highlights calendar. She says, "You're welcome."

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