In Kentucky coal country, a vote to stop bias against gay residents
Johnny Cummings grew up gay in this faded coal town, the son of a miner. He likes to joke that he didn't know he was gay until people around town told him he was. Now 50, Cummings is the mayor of Vicco, population 334. He's Mayor Johnny in the mornings. In the afternoons he styles hair at his salon, Scissors, a few steps from the storefront Town Hall. On Jan. 14, at the mayor's urging, Vicco's commissioners discussed an ordinance to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, "real or perceived." As recorded in town secretary Kitty Anderton's minutes, everybody "started debating back and forth and asking questions." Three and a half hours later, on a 3-1 vote, Vicco became the smallest town in America to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals. For Cummings and the three commissioners, the vote was no monument to civic courage, no civil rights breakthrough in conservative coal country. It was merely "the right thing to do," said the mayor, who has no vote.