A newspaper column in which a Central Valley city official advocated “straight pride” and derided men for wearing “tinker bell wings” and “go-go boots,” has sparked outrage and calls for his removal from office.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of residents — some waving rainbow flags — packed the City Council chambers in Dixon to demand the resignation of Vice Mayor Ted Hickman, whose comments were widely viewed as homophobic.
Hickman published a column in Dixon’s Independent Voice late last month, in which he stated that July 1 marked the start of “Straight Pride American Month” and the end of “LGBTQF-WTF” month, when “grown men wear skin tight short-shorts and go-go boots and don tinker bell wings.”
“Now hundreds of millions of the rest of us can celebrate our month, peaking on July 4th, as healthy, heterosexual, fairly monogamous, keep our kinky stuff to ourselves, Americans,” Hickman wrote, according to an image of the column posted by the Sacramento Bee. “We work, have families, (and babies we make) enjoy and love the company (and marriage) of the opposite sex and don’t flaunt our differences dressing up like faries [sic] and prancing by the thousands in a parade in nearby San Francisco to be televised all over the world.”
Hickman’s commentary has generated significant controversy in the city of roughly 20,000 people, just west of Sacramento. At a Tuesday night council meeting, speakers spent several hours condemning his comments and calling for his removal.
Hickman defended his comments.
“I didn’t give up my 1st Amendment right when I became an elected official,” Hickman said. “To the contrary, I swore like the rest of the council to uphold the Constitution, which includes the 1st Amendment.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Thom Bogue, the city’s mayor, said there is going to be a meeting to discuss legal options and “how we deal with this.”
“And it is an issue that has to be dealt with, because every elected official — while they do have their freedom of speech — also has to understand there’s consequences, or potential consequences, with what they say,” Bogue said. “Even if they use their title or not, they are still representing a lot of folks and really need to learn to keep up with the times and the way our society is changing.”
Hickman has been vice mayor — a position that rotates each year — since January and has been on the council since 2014, according to Bogue. Bogue said that Hickman, who is up for reelection in November, has a history of making controversial comments.
In addition to their anger over the content of the column, Dixon residents also took issue with Hickman’s use of his official title.
“Vice Mayor Hickman in his recent public comments about the LGBTQ community in the Independent Voice employed demeaning and denigrating language and rhetoric and did so in a way that was unbecoming of an elected official,” Dixon pastor Catharine Morris said during public comment. “Mr. Hickman demonstrated a lack of common sense in making inflammatory statements, which with the reality of social media can be shared around the world. How can the community entrust important matters to someone who lacks judgement and basic common sense?”
In his response, Hickman said, “If I were to rewind time and were to write the column again, I would not use the words, sarcastically or not, of vice mayor because I see where that may be unacceptable to some.”
Another speaker expressed concern over the economic impact to the town, which she said, “has gained unwelcome notoriety as being unwelcome.”
“I ask that you do some good for this community and resign,” the speaker told Hickman.
The Sacramento Bee reported that only a few people spoke in support of Hickman at the meeting. In a previous interview, Hickman told a Bee reporter that the column was meant to be tongue-in-cheek humor.
To the LGBT community, Bogue said he wanted to stress that the Constitution is in place to protect “all of our people’s rights and to help society evolve as a people.”
“We need to continue the battle of acceptance across the board. And I can respect the challenges they have faced, the challenges they’re going to continue to face,” Bogue said. “Don’t give up the fight, because of resistance.”