Nonprofit activist group Equality California issued a statement Monday urging Dixon Vice Mayor Ted Hickman to resign, three days after his column using an offensive term for gay men was published in a local newspaper.
A portion of Hickman's column in Dixon's Independent Voice quickly spurred outrage, including calls on social media for a recall election. In last Friday's edition of "That's Life," Hickman referred to gay men as 'faries' (sic), among other comments that many people found homophobic.
Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ rights organization, issued a statement Monday calling for Hickman's resignation, directly citing his column and his "derogatory references to the LGBTQ community."
"Despite all the progress we've made, hate and intolerance are alive and well in fringe politicians like Mr. Hickman who spew hateful rhetoric in an attempt to dehumanize members of our LGBTQ community," Executive Director Rick Zbur said in Equality California's statement.
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Zbur also said in the statement that Hickman's personal beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, "but he's not entitled to serve in elected office and the very same Amendment protects the rights of Dixon residents and pro-equality Californians to stand up and demand accountability. That's what we intend to do."
On Saturday, Hickman defended his column to The Sacramento Bee as "tongue-in-cheek," adding that his personal beliefs have not affected his performance as vice mayor.
Hickman did not return The Bee's initial requests for comment Monday afternoon.
A political columnist with the Independent Voice and a controversial former vice mayor of Dixon, Michael Ceremello, defended Hickman and the column Monday in an email copied to The Bee and Hickman, responding to a letter by a reader who was critical of Hickman.
Ceremello said he was "dismayed" the reader could not find a sense of humor in Hickman's column, and called the reader's viewpoint one-sided.
In his email, Ceremello also called gay pride parades "a hedonistic demonstration of marginal values," also referring to the LGBTQ community as "1 to 2% of the population."
"I salute Ted Hickman for opening the door to the conversation. Some of us are not afraid to talk about race or sexual orientation," Ceremello wrote.
As reported in 2010 by the Vacaville Reporter, then-City Council member Ceremello was escorted out of the Dixon Council Chamber for a "cooling off" period after an angry rant and telling then-Vice Mayor Rick Fuller, "You do not have the floor. Please sit back and shut the (expletive) up."
Current Dixon Councilman Devon Minnema issued a statement on Facebook on Saturday, calling Hickman's rhetoric "venom" and saying his fellow council members should "do the right thing in coming weeks."
The "Recall Ted Hickman, Vice Mayor of Dixon, CA" page on Facebook had about 100 likes on Saturday. As of Monday afternoon, it has about 1,000.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ rights organization.