The Orlando Weekly reported Billy Manes passed away shortly after 4 p.m. at Orlando Regional Medical Center. The newspaper said he was surrounded by his husband, Anthony Mauss, and other family members and friends when he passed away.
Mauss in a statement to the Orlando Weekly on Sunday said Manes “had been ill for a couple of weeks with what turned out to be” pneumonia. He said his husband died from “complications of his condition” that led to organ failure.
Manes, 45, was a long-time Orlando Weekly columnist.
He made history in 2005 when he became the city’s first openly gay mayoral candidate.
Manes’ then-partner, Alan Jordan, took his own life in 2012. Manes became an advocate for marriage rights for same-sex couples after a protracted legal fight with Jordan’s family over his ashes and assets he and Jordan shared.
Manes lived two blocks from the Pulse nightclub. He spoke with the Washington Blade a few hours after a gunman on June 12, 2016, opened fire inside the gay nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.
“Our town has been ripped apart,” said Manes, noting helicopters were still flying above the nightclub as he spoke to the Blade. “It’s incredibly frightening.”
Manes joined the board of directors of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a political action committee that formed in the wake of what remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. He wrote about the Orlando LGBT community’s response to the Pulse nightclub massacre in a Watermark column that marked a year since the massacre.
“After June 12, thousands lined up to donate blood for the 49 dead and the 53 injured in that nightclub nightmare, not because standing in the sun on a hot summer day is an act to be applauded, but because they knew that, in times like these, the masses are needed,” wrote Manes. “This was no time to hide behind your couch cushions and cry at the television broadcasts. This was a time of people connecting — arm and arm, blood to blood — in the manner that societies do when tragedy strikes.”
Manes on Sunday wrote on his Facebook page that he was “effectively let go” from Watermark on July 14. Watermark later confirmed Manes was no longer the newspaper’s editor.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on his Twitter page described Manes as “a vibrant force of nature with a healthy dose of wit.” Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse nightclub, is among those who also mourned Manes’ death.
“He touched so many lives as a selfless friend, community supporter and a willing mentor,” said the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence in a statement. “We will greatly miss him and his contributions to the gun violence prevention movement and the advancement of LGBTQ equality.”
Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, echoed this sentiment.
“Billy not only chronicled the LGBTQ movement in his inimitable style, he was an activist willing to tell his story with a raw and powerful honesty,” it said in a post on its Facebook page.
“Billy Manes was a walking fucking miracle, a man who fought ferociously to create a world where justice, equality and respect were the cornerstones of his community,” said Mauss in his statement to Orlando Weekly on Sunday. “He loved Orlando. He knew what was possible here in this sprawling mass of ex-pats, misfits, introverts, seekers, party people, bookworms, performers, makers, artists and friends.”
“His driving force was love,” he added. “He loved you, Orlando, and he knew of your love for him. He fed off it; it sustained him. He would have fought proudly for each and every one of you forever. Unfortunately, his body had other plans.”