"We ARE different from them."

Residents of the northern California town of Dixon protested Tuesday over the vice mayor's insulting comments about gay people. 

In a rowdy ​public meeting in city hall, Ted Hickman faced his constituents for the first time since he insulted gay people in a column last month for a local newspaper. He refused to apologize, and dozens of outraged residents called on him to resign. 

“I care for you Mr. Hickman," said one resident, Alex Lopez, ​according to CBS Sacramento. "I care about what you say, about what you write, about what you do. So, I ask that you do something good for the community and resign.”

In the column, which Hickman also posted on his personal website, he repeatedly called homosexuals "faries," by which he meant fairies, and called for July to be celebrated as "Straight American Pride," or "SPAM" month. 

With Gay Pride Month over in June, Hickman wrote, "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."

"We ARE different from them," he continued, contrasting heterosexuals with gay people. "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 in nearby San Francisco to be televised all over the world."

An online petition to remove Hickman from office over the column has ​gathered about 26,000 signatures. But such a move is illegal within six months of an election. So critics will have to wait until after Hickman runs again in November. 

Dixon's Mayor Thom Bogue has publicly reprimanded his deputy, saying he "should have realized as a public servant he represents all segments of people regardless if they are LGBTQ, straight or otherwise.”

But publisher Dave Scholl of the Independent Voice, defended Hickman and his own decision to run the column. Scholl said the constitutional right to free speech was at stake. 

“Having a free press is absolutely required for a free society," Scholl ​told CBS Sacramento. "I will not tolerate attempts to silence a newspaper."

There has lately been ​renewed ​debate in the United States about tolerance of views some find offensive. For the most part, it has been conservatives​ raising the banner of free speech and liberals arguing against giving platform to unacceptable figures. 

Scholl said his newspaper has lost some advertisers over the controversy, but gained others.