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Online Extra: LGBTQ Update: Dixon council takes no action after vice mayor's 'straight Pride month' column

by Alex Madison

Dixon Vice Mayor Ted Hickman. Photo: Courtesy KCRA-TV
Dixon Vice Mayor Ted Hickman. Photo: Courtesy KCRA-TV  

The Dixon City Council decided not to strip Vice Mayor Ted Hickman of his title at its meeting last week after he sparked national outrage for calling for a "Straight Pride American Month," or SPAM, and using derogatory terms to refer to gay men.

In response to the LGBT community's annual Pride Month in June, Hickman, as part of his "That's Life" column for Dixon's Independent Voice newspaper, advocated for a month that celebrates "healthy, heterosexual, fairly monogamous, keep our kinky stuff to ourselves Americans" nationwide. The column, which calls gay men "tinker bells" and "fairies," quickly went viral, followed by LGBT rights groups calling for Hickman's resignation.

The City Council of the small town west of Sacramento cited First Amendment rights in its decision to allow the vice mayor to remain in his post, according to the Sacramento Bee.

At the meeting, however, Dixon Mayor Thom Bogue called for a resolution to be added to the council's next agenda stating it does not support what Hickman wrote, according to former Dixon city councilman Michael Ceremello, who was at the meeting.

According to the Bee, LGBT activists, along with a smaller group of Hickman supporters, attended the July 24 City Council meeting, standing inside and outside the council chambers.

The newspaper also reported verbal arguments that broke out among those with opposing opinions. One LGBT supporter, Tom Ruppel, 69, a longtime Dixon resident, was carrying a sign that read, "We stand with our LGBT neighbors."

"I'm not a gay rights activist, I just think that it's wrong," Ruppel said. "People have gotten hurt."

Another man, Randy Thomasson, the anti-gay president of Save California, whose website states its campaign is "Challenging liberal lies with God's timeless moral truths," showed graphic photos of gay men at Pride parades to onlookers at the meeting, which he eventually submitted 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.

Ceremello, who also writes a column in the Independent Voice, defended the council's decision in a recent interview with the Bay Area Reporter. He said it would be a direct violation of the First Amendment if the City Council took retaliatory action against Hickman.

Though Ceremello does not agree with everything Hickman wrote in his column, he did say straight people have the right to a pride month.

"There shouldn't be any problem in the LGBT community for people to have a pride month based on sexual orientation," he said. "If they can do it, anybody should be able to do it."

When asked if he felt the language Hickman used in his column was discriminatory, Ceremello responded by saying, "We all see things and say things that are discriminatory."

Hickman's column, which blasted June as "LGBTQF-WTF month," talked about the differences between straight and gay people.

"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 [sic] and prancing by the thousands in a parade in nearby San Francisco to be televised all over the world," he wrote.

In response to his column, community members, with financial help from the Solano Pride Center, organized Dixon's first Pride celebration July 28. David Heitstuman, executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, attended and advertised the event.

"This came directly out of [Hickman's] comments," Heitstuman told the B.A.R. "This was the community's opportunity to stand up and say 'We don't accept this in our community and we have pride and all people are welcome here.' We want to ensure we have a safe space in our community."

Heitstuman also called the City Council's decision to allow Hickman to remain as vice mayor "disappointing."

"It would have largely been a symbolic gesture, but an important act that defined the values of Dixon. Inaction can equal complicity," Heitstuman said.

California's largest LGBT rights organization, Equality California, said in a statement to the B.A.R, "While we're disappointed by the council's decision, Dixon residents continue to speak loudly and clearly: there's no place for Mr. Hickman's hate and bigotry in the city of Dixon. Luckily, time is up for Mr. Hickman in January, and we look forward to the day that a leader willing to represent all Dixon residents replaces him."

Hickman is seeking re-election in November.

Bogue, Hickman, and Dixon Councilmembers Devon Minnema, Scott Pederson, and Steve Bird did not respond to requests for comment from the B.A.R. before this article was posted.

Bogue did speak to the Vacaville Reporter last month and said, "While I do not approve of such an article - in my belief we are all American U.S. citizens where sexual (preference) shouldn't play a role - I do believe in a person's freedom of speech even when I don't like what they are saying."

He added that he does not have the capability to "sanction an elected official for what they wish to publish in the paper."

Minnema publicly denounced Hickman's column on Facebook, calling his words "deeply disturbing."

"... 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," Minnema wrote. "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..."

CVS in Arizona turns away trans woman
CVS has reportedly fired one of its pharmacists who refused to fill the hormone replacement therapy prescription of a transgender woman.

Hilde Hall wrote a column about her experience that was published on the American Civil Liberties Union website July 19. She has also filed a complaint with the Arizona Board of Pharmacy.

She described how, after receiving her first prescription for hormone therapy from her doctor, she went to CVS to have it filled.

"I was finally going to start seeing my body reflect my gender identity and the woman I've always known myself to be," she wrote on ACLU.com.

While attempting to get her prescription filled, she said she was turned away.

"After years of working to affirm my identity in a world where transgender people are questioned constantly about how well they know themselves, the pharmacist refused to fill one of the prescriptions needed to affirm my identity," Hall wrote.

The pharmacist reportedly did not give Hall a reason as to why he refused to fill her prescription. Hall also claimed the pharmacist kept asking why she was written the prescription and, when Hall tried to get her prescription back, the pharmacist refused to return it, according to the column.

Hall has since received an apology from a CVS representative, who said, "The pharmacist who mistreated Hilde acted outside of the company's guidelines," she wrote in an update to her original column.

An ACLU staff attorney claimed the Trump administration is partly to blame for creating a culture of denying trans people equal health care rights.

"No one should be denied health care because of who they are," said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.

"Right now, the Trump administration is attempting to rollback protections for women and all transgender and nonbinary people in federal health care law. No one should have to experience what Hilde did, and yet it is all too common for transgender people and also people seeking birth control around the country. It is critical that CVS ensures no one is harassed when taking a valid prescription into one of their pharmacies."

Lesbian senior couple sues over housing discrimination
A St. Louis senior housing community, Friendship Village Sunset Hills, allegedly refused to rent a unit to a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is suing the housing community on behalf of Mary Walsh, 72, and Bev Nance, 68, alleging its action violated the federal Fair Housing Act and Missouri Human Rights Act.

"Mary and Bev were denied housing for one reason and one reason only - because they were married to each other rather than to men," said NCLR senior staff attorney Julie Wilensky in a news release. "This is exactly the type of sex discrimination the Fair Housing Act prohibits."

Although Friendship Village is open to the public and not affiliated with any religious organization or group, it allegedly would not accept the lesbian couple because it followed the "biblical definition" of marriage and "defined marriage as between a man and a woman."

The suit claims that Walsh and Nance made multiple visits to the senior community, had extensive conversations with staff, and paid a $2,000 deposit before being denied housing. The couple also had friends in the community who encouraged them to apply.

"We've been together for nearly 40 years and have spent our lives in St. Louis. We want to grow older here by each other's side," said Walsh. "We should not be prevented from accessing the housing and care we need."

LGBTQ update is a weekly online column addressing issues affecting the community. It runs on Tuesdays. Please submit comments or column ideas to Alex Madison at (415) 875-9986 or a.madison@ebar.com.

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