The vice mayor of Dixon has defended a portion of a recent column he wrote for the city's independent newspaper after several readers and residents called the piece homophobic.
The most recent edition of Vice Mayor Ted Hickman's column, "That's Life," appeared Friday in Dixon's Independent Voice. In it, Hickman declares July 1 the start of "Straight Pride American Month," refers to gay men as "faries" (sic) and suggests that gay people have an "inferior complex."
A copy of the column can also be found on Hickman's website, where the post is referred to as edition No. 734 of "That's Life."
The author bio section of the website, posted in 2007, refers to "That's Life" as "weekly tongue-in-cheek columns" that Hickman started in the 1960s.
"We ARE different from them. … 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 and prancing by the thousands in a parade," Hickman writes in his latest post.
Hickman defended the column Saturday in a phone interview with The Sacramento Bee, saying that he is entitled to express his opinions using humor.
"It was tongue-in-cheek and had nothing to do with my elected position," Hickman said, and that "thin-skinned people took offense" to his column.
He added that his beliefs do not affect his performance as a city official, but some residents disagreed.
One of Hickman's fellow city councilmembers, Devon Minnema, made an official statement on Facebook on Saturday harshly criticizing Hickman's column as "deeply disturbing" and calling for action.
"I have known what kind of person he is for a long time, but have never garnered enough community or council support to take action," Minnema wrote. "I hope that the other councilmen will see through the ideology of hate that they share with him, and do the right thing in coming weeks. There is no part of the community that is untouched by the venom that Councilman Hickman has spewed over the years."
"It's a different level of rhetoric that's not befitting of public officials," said Wyatt Mince. "People are entitled to their opinion, but he's a public official and he needs to comport himself a certain way to serve the city."
Having a family rooted in the town for decades, Mince and his father said Hickman's viewpoints are well-known in the community but that they were taken a back by what Mince, 23, called the "outlandish, high rhetoric" used in the article.
"When I was a small child, he and my father played cribbage together and would get into heated discussion about politics," said Ray Mince, 64.
He said after the Supreme Court's 2015 decision allowing gay marriage, Hickman "got on Facebook and started talking about that, and at that point I unfriended him." The elder Mince agreed that Hickman is entitled to his own opinion, "although he is representing our city and that makes a difference."
The printed newspaper and Hickman's website each include an anti-gay-pride flag: a rainbow symbol with a line through it.
"My point was, what's the difference? They have their pride month, why can't we have ours? ... I support the First Amendment," Hickman said.
At one point in the column, Hickman attempts to hedge his stance: "This is not really legally anti anything; instead it’s pro-family; and proud to be a straight American, and me expressing a private opinion… So there!"
Soon after the newspaper was published, some citizens expressed outrage on social media, posting to local Facebook pages that Hickman's column is blatantly homophobic, "disgusting" and "hateful."
Sophia O'Neal, 20, a college student home for the summer, said she reads the Voice and Hickman's column occasionally. "Hickman has a long history of writing articles with this kind of vitriol," she said.
She was concerned that this article in particular could incite others to act in a discriminatory manner toward the LGBTQ community.
"A lot of friends my age, as well as their parents, (were) pissed off and disgusted," she said. "This kind of language and sentiment ... it's emboldening."
A Facebook group titled "Recall Ted Hickman, Vice Mayor of Dixon, CA," popped up quickly in direct response to the column. The group had more than 100 followers by Saturday. The page includes an event invitation to protest an upcoming city council meeting.
Hickman said citizens are welcome to take democratic action against him if they are unhappy with his performance in office.
"They're gonna have a recall motion? Let them do it," he said.
A document cataloging the assignments for each Dixon councilmember shows that in 2018, Hickman's areas of representation include land acquisition/management, housing authority and fire district relations, among other general duties and committee posts. As vice mayor, Hickman also serves as mayor in the absence of Mayor Thom Bogue.
Other items in the latest edition of "That's Life" include a piece about a local tourist attraction, a fireworks safety warning and an announcement of the annual "Solano County Friends of the NRA" dinner.
Two weeks earlier, in the June 15 edition of his column, Hickman wrote, "I am proud to be a heterosexual, monogamous, married to the opposite sex, straight individual that knows what goes where and why." In the same post, Hickman wrote that he has "lesbian tendencies."
Representatives with the Independent Voice could not be immediately reached for comment.
Hickman, a licensed real estate agent in Solano County, is listed as a Realtor with Century 21 M&M and Associates on the office's website. He indicates on his personal website that he had worked as the outdoor editor for the Voice.