Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tiny Kentucky town defies rural stereotype about LGBT bias

Dan Barry reported today from Vicco, Kentucky, population 318, with the headline "Sewers, Curfews, and a Ban on Gay Bias." Earlier this month, Vicco became the smallest municipality in the country to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

After reporting this news in his wonderfully inimitable way (describing the city commissioner meeting down to the fact that it took place in a former pool hall, with the commissioners sitting on lawn chairs), Barry comments on what might be considered the obvious:
Admit it: The Commission’s anti-discrimination vote seems at odds with knee-jerk assumptions about a map dot in the Appalachian coal fields, tucked between Sassafras and Happy. For one thing, Vicco embraces its raucous country-boy reputation — home to countless brawls and a dozen or so unsolved murders, people here say. For another, it is in Perry County, where four of every five voters rejected President Obama in the November election.
He goes on to explain how Vicco came to make history in this way. You see, Vicco's mayor, 50-year-old Johnny Cummings, is gay.  Cummings is a hair dresser whose salon, Scissors, is just a few doors down from City Hall, and he grew up in Vicco.  Cummings says he never hid his gay identity. "[T]he occasional rude encounter while growing up was nothing that he and his protective friends couldn't handle," Barry writes.

Barry next explains how the anti-discrimination measure got on the City Commissioners' agenda:   
This place-in-progress called Vicco was one of a handful of municipalities to receive a request last year from the Fairness Coalition, a Kentucky-based advocacy group for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. 
The request was to adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance.  It turns out that Mr. Cummings's sister, Lee Etta, is active in the coalition.  The city’s attorney "trimmed the coalition’s 28-page ordinance proposal down to a couple of pages," and earlier this month, it passed 3 to 1, with members of the Fairness Coalition in attendance for the vote.  

One commissioner who voted for the ordinance, 56-year-old retired coal miner Claude Branson, Jr., said Mr. Cummings's presence had little influence on the matter.  He explained, "We want everyone to be treated fair and just."  

Don't miss the multi-media slide show accompanying this story.

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