When Vicco’s city commission approved an ordinance prohibiting discrimination within the city’s borders, Mayor Johnny Cummings didn’t think his small hometown would be catapulted onto the national stage.
But that’s just what happened.
The phone at City Hall began to ring as reporters from The New York Times and other publications (most recently the Wall Street Journal) and television stations were calling, looking to report on this local ordinance that installed protections for people that federal laws do not. Even a crew from Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” drove down to Vicco to film a segment.
“We wanted to change the image (of Vicco),” said Cummings, who last month was also recognized by the Kentucky Commission for Human Rights and Education. “I didn’t know we were going to do it on a national scale.”
It was at the city commission’s May meeting that Juan Pena, the outreach field supervisor for the Commission on Human Rights and Education, presented Cummings with the Kentucky Unbridled Spirit for Justice Award. The award recognizes Cummings’ leadership “in adopting local legislation to protect people from discrimination.”
“Kentucky’s unbridled spirit for justice is reflected by those foot soldiers who stand in the gap, preforming necessary, basic, and sometimes unrecognized tasks, without whom the battle could not be fought nor the victory won,” the award reads.
Vicco, a town of just more than 300 people located on the Perry County line with Knott County, became only the fourth city in Kentucky to approve such a measure, with Lexington, Louisville, and Covington being the other three.
“The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is excited that this small town in the state’s heartland has made a giant stand to protect vulnerable individuals from discrimination, in this case, because of their individual gender orientation or gender identity,” said George W. Stinson, chair of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Board of Commissioners, following the city’s approval of the ordinance in January. “This act demonstrates a widening view by people everywhere that no one deserves to be mistreated, bullied, abused or otherwise victimized by the cruelty of discrimination, and this is great news for Kentuckians.”
Mayor Cummings said there were some initial misunderstandings about the ordinance when it was passed, but he noted its passage is meant to protect the city’s business owners just as much as anyone else. But ultimately, he added, this ordinance has been a good thing not only for Vicco’s image, but for everyone who does business with Vicco, because it ensures that everyone can.
“It’s a shame that any city has to pass any of that stuff, because that’s basic — all men are created equal,” Cummings said of the ordinance, which bars discrimination based on things such as sexual orientation, race, or gender. “Someday we won’t have to write all these titles down, we’ll just include everyone, like the Founding Fathers intended.”