NYT profiles tiny Eastern Kentucky town and its expanded anti-discrimination ordinance

I’m from Kentucky, but have never heard of Vicco, a tiny town between the bigger towns of Hazard and Whitesburg.

From the NYT’s Tiny Kentucky Town Passes Ban on Gay Bias:

For a good chunk of the last century, Vicco was the local coal miner’s Vegas, its narrow streets lined with bars and attractions that ran on money earned the hard way in the subterranean dank. The city’s very name derives from the initials for the Virginia Iron Coal and Coke Company.

But as the coal camps folded, Vicco emptied out. […]

Into the Vicco void came abandonment, drug abuse and budget deficits so dire that the city could not afford a police officer. […]

The next mayor stepped down last year for health reasons and was replaced by one of the city commissioners, the hairstylist down the street, [Johnny] Cummings.

Cummings is a longtime Vicco surname. Johnny Cummings’s mother, Betty, was a schoolteacher; she has some dementia now and spends most days in his salon, telling him she loves him. His father, John, ran several businesses, including a bar; he died from a blow to the back of the head in 1990. One of those unsolved Vicco murders.

Mr. Cummings is gay, an identity he has never hidden, and the occasional rude encounter while growing up was nothing that he and his protective friends couldn’t handle. After high school, he was offered a scholarship to a beauty academy in California, but he returned after two months. Other than a brief spell in South Carolina, he has been planted here in Vicco, where, for the last quarter-century, he has co-owned a salon called Scissors.

Vicco commissioners just passed, on a 3-1 vote, a trimmed down anti-discrimination ordinance extending protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The town is getting some infrastructure repaired. They’ve hired the first policeman in years.

It’s a good story about Americans making do and making sense in a new century.