A California official is under fire after proclaiming July “Straight Pride American Month” and using homophobic language in a local newspaper column.
Ted Hickman, the vice mayor of Dixon, a town just west of Sacramento, drew outrage from both the local community and LGBTQ advocates across the state following the publication of his June 29 "That's Life" column in Dixon's Independent Voice.
The column referred to LGBTQ Pride Month, which is celebrated in June, as "LGBTQF-WTF month"; called gay people "tinker bells" and "faries" [sic]; and declared July a time for people to celebrate their heterosexuality.
"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 in his column, which is also available on his personal blog.
"We honor our country and our veterans who have made all of this possible (including for the tinker bells) and we can do it with actual real pride, not some put on show just to help our inferior complex 'show we are different' type of crap," Hickman continued. "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."
An online petition demanding Hickman’s resignation garnered more than 16,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
"Dixon residents, among others, are demanding a recall to get this bigot out of office. While everyone has a 'right to their opinion,' when someone in power begins to mock and denigrate a minority publicly, they put a target on their back that can have devastating consequences," the petition states.
A Facebook page titled “Recall Ted Hickman, Vice Mayor of Dixon, CA,” has also been created. Started by local residents, the page now has more than 1,600 followers.
"Our group has called for the resignation from Ted Hickman because he has portrayed profoundly poor judgment, especially in representing his constituents," the page's three creators told NBC News via Facebook messenger. "We believe firmly that people in elected positions need to do their best to represent all people equally. The page was created to help bring attention to an elected official not only abusing their position as an appointed person of the people, but also a person who as a private citizen writes sexist, hateful, and demeaning content."
The Facebook page's organizers, Heather Eckert, Julie Monson and Matthew St. Amant, said they are currently planning a peaceful protest on July 10 at the Dixon City Council meeting.
Beverly Kearney, founder of local LGBTQ organization Love Is Love Movement, said while Hickman is entitled to his opinions and beliefs, as an elected official, his “hateful comments cannot be ignored.”
“It hurts my heart to know that this man was my neighbor during my childhood [and] that he now thinks that I am less of a human because of my sexual orientation," Kearney told NBC News. In protest of Hickman's comments, Kearney said she and other local LGBTQ advocates are hosting the first-ever Dixon LGBTQ Pride Day on July 28.
Hickman is not without his defenders. Local resident Tim Hillstrom told NBC affiliate KCRA that Hickman's "a good guy."
“He’s a sportsman. He believes in laughing. He’s not out to make fun of anybody. He’s really not. If something affects him and if it touches his heart, he’ll speak out on it. And that’s what he does," Hillstrom said.
The local outrage following Hickman's column has reached officials at Dixon City Hall, including Dixon Mayor Thom Bogue.
Mayor Bogue told KCRA that he is aware of the "outcry for a recall," but since Hickman is up for re-election in November, he said, "I seriously doubt a recall effort coming into play."
Devon Minnema, who works with Hickman on the Dixon City Council, called his rhetoric “deeply disturbing."
“There is no part of the community that is untouched by the venom that Councilman Hickman has spewed over the years, and that is the saddest part,” Minnema wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.
Equality California, a statewide gay advocacy group, described Hickman's comments as "an attempt to dehumanize members of our LGBTQ community" and joined calls for him to step down.
“Mr. Hickman's words have no place in our society — especially at a time when our nation is already so divided and studies show hate crimes are on the rise," Rick Zbur, the organization's executive director, said in a statement. "Residents of Dixon — LGBTQ people, their families, their friends and their neighbors — deserve better, and Mr. Hickman should resign immediately."
In response to the complaints about his column, Hickman told local news outlet The Reporter, "Don’t like what I write? Don’t read it."
He also told the outlet that a recall is unlikely, claiming "the numbers aren't there." He did, however, acknowledge he is up for re-election in November.
Mayor Bogue told NBC News he’s waiting for legal advice from the city's attorney to determine what disciplinary options against Hickman, if any, might be available.