Citing First Amendment rights, the Dixon City Council announced Tuesday at its meeting that it has decided against stripping Ted Hickman’s title as vice mayor after a controversial column he wrote in the town’s newspaper — calling for a Straight American Pride Month and using a derogatory term to refer to gay men — went viral.
Before the decision was announced, Randy Thomasson of Save California — a group that describes itself as a “pro-family organization: working, speaking and fighting the good fight for your values” — announced that he was going to speak at the meeting.
As a result, a small group of Hickman supporters and another, larger group of advocates for LGBTQ rights descended on the City Council meeting.
“Our society needs to defend its foundations, there’s no such thing as a homosexual culture that is everlasting,” said Don Grudmann shortly before the meeting. “When you break down the family unit, you’re hurting the children and it’s only a matter of time before you produce psychotic broken children, which is the whole idea of the so-called LGBT movement.”
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Tom Ruppel, a longtime Dixon resident, was carrying a sign that said “We stand with our LGBT neighbors.” He clashed with Grudmann almost immediately after they both arrived holding signs for their respective movements.
“I’m not a gay rights activist, I just think that it’s wrong,” Ruppel said. “People have gotten hurt.”
Thomasson spoke in favor of the council’s decision and said that Hickman spoke the truth.
“The intolerant left has picked a fight with Ted Hickman, they don’t think he had the right to say what he said in a column, and they don’t think the newspaper that published it had the right to publish it,” Thomasson said. “Well, both accusations are completely false — we have a Constitution in our country: the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech for individuals, and freedom of the press for all publications.”
Thomasson showed onlookers graphic photos of gay men at pride parades, and eventually submitted the photos to the Dixon City Council for review.
“Ted Hickman doesn’t want this in Dixon, and the majority of people in Dixon don’t want it here, either,” Thomasson said of the photos.
Discussions between the two groups were heated before the meeting started, with both inside and outside City Council chambers arguing over their respective group’s values.
A big screen was set up outside the chambers on the City Hall grounds where people who didn’t fit inside the room — or those who wanted to cheer and boo — were permitted to watch a live feed of the meeting. Audience members voiced pleasure or displeasure loudly as people gave public commentary.