Our cover story examines the Atlanta Eagle’s journey to find justice after a September police raid in which employees and patrons of the gay leather bar were forced to lie on the floor for over an hour and allegedly taunted with anti-gay epithets.

Last week’s trial — in which all of the defendants who appeared in court were either found “not guilty” or had their charges dismissed — set the stage for a showdown in federal court over a lawsuit from plaintiffs who say their civil rights were violated. The case could be one of the most watched for LGBT Georgians since the unsuccessful challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban in 2004.

Our news coverage also includes an in-depth look at Simone Bell’s journey to becoming the first black lesbian state lawmaker in Georgia and the nation, an anti-bullying bill’s difficult journey in the state House, and a photographic look at the joy of gay couples in Washington, D.C., who on March 9 became the latest in the nation to take the journey to the altar and have their marriages legally recognized.

Features in our debut issue range from the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus’ journey around Georgia, to transgender director/actor Kimberly Reed’s cinematic journey to make peace with her brothers, to new artist collective John Q’s journey into Atlanta’s LGBT past.

For the Georgia Voice, our journey began on Nov. 16, 2009 — the Monday morning I and the rest of the staff of Southern Voice and David magazine learned of the demise of our publications via a note on our office’s locked doors.

I had worked for Southern Voice since 1997, as editor since 2006. I heard about the sign from a coworker, but drove down to see for myself, gather with other employees, and talk to the media. By the time I returned to my car just a couple of hours later, I had a message waiting from Chris Cash, who founded Southern Voice in 1988 and hired me shortly before selling the paper to Window Media in 1997.

As difficult as the day was for both of us, our conversation immediately turned to the future — because we know that LGBT Georgians’ journey to fair treatment is not over, and we know there is still a need to document that journey in order to inspire others to join in.

By Tuesday we agreed to start a new LGBT publication. By Friday we had a bank account, a P.O. Box and a domain name (SaveSoVo.com) to keep the community informed.

The journey continued throughout the next four months. In early December we held a public community meeting in which attendees overwhelmingly voted to name our new effort the Georgia Voice.

The name honors our direct roots in the creation and history of Southern Voice, but also marks a separation from the past. As importantly, using “Georgia” in the name emphasizes that the fight for LGBT rights is no longer confined to the metro Atlanta area.

As an added bonus, we look forward to no longer being asked, “Are you some kind of Confederate newspaper?” when we call the offices of some Southern lawmakers.

We registered our website in early December and incorporated as the Georgia Voice, LLC, in early January. Along the way, we received help from many people and offers of support and words of encouragement from countless more.

So as those months of work culminate with this first print edition of the Georgia Voice, we know it isn’t the end of a journey, but the start of a new one that will last for years to come.

Every day on our website, www.thegavoice.com, we will offer breaking news as it happens, the best LGBT events, ways for you to share your news and opinions, and fun extras like “Pop Quiz” weekly video interviews.

Every other Friday, we’ll publish the Georgia Voice in print, offering more in-depth reporting, analysis and features to linger over.

We look forward to continuing our travels together, and to helping give a voice to our community’s journey to justice and equality.

Editor Laura Douglas-Brown is always happy to share what’s in her iPod, and is always interested in your feedback – from song suggestions to serious subjects. Email lbrown@thegavoice.com.

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