Kentucky mayor takes 'fairness' message to national stage

One man in Appalachia is making a small difference in his community, but big waves around the country.

Johnny Cummings is the mayor of Vicco, Kentucky, a community of about 330 people. He is also a gay man, who recently passed a "fairness ordinance," banning discrimination in his community.

"The fairness ordinance was just saying that everyone should be able to be treated fairly, no matter what your race, religious preference, or sexual preference is," he said.

It was a move Cummings said almost all of his community supports, and one he thought would, at best, get some local press coverage. The mayor certainly didn't expect national media outlets to start calling.

"One week you're in the New York Times, next week you're in the LA Times and next thing you know there's 27 production companies calling to say, 'you're a little different,'" he said. He was also featured on a Comedy Central episode of the Colbert Report.

Cummings has taken advantage of that opportunity, using his new national platform to talk about civil rights for the LGBT community.

"This touches so many people's hearts and they care about it and it was destined to put these wheels into motion," he said. "It's really [20] years too late, but here we go!"

Cummings recognizes how divisive gay rights issues can be, proven this week by a split in opinion between Kentucky state leaders.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced Tuesday the state will hire outside attorneys to appeal a decision by a federal judge forcing the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The governor's announcement came moments after the state's Attorney General said he would not ask a higher court to review the decision.

"That's very disappointing," Cummings said, referring to the governor's announcement. "It's a political statement and everything is divided."

The small town mayor, who also runs a salon in Vicco, plans to start with small change in his community. He hopes his town's acceptance will show the world Appalachia isn't always the place perceived by outsiders.

"We're always the people that, in the rest of the nation, [are] looked down on as not being open minded or educated," he said, pointing to his ordinance and the community reaction as proof that stereotype is not necessarily true.

"And I'm just as proud of that as I am of all the things I've done with the fairness committee and the LGBT."


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment