Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
The City of Huntington will be hosting a relaunch event for the city’s “Open to All” campaign at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 inside City Hall.
A joint effort of the Mayor’s Diversity Advisory Committee and the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee, the Open to All campaign seeks to “promote an inclusive environment for all people in the City of Huntington,” according to the campaign’s Facebook page.
The campaign was originally launched in February of 2016 in response to laws being passed in several states and one being considered by the West Virginia Legislature that would make it legal for a business to discriminate against LGBT customers or anyone that contradicts a business owner’s “deeply held religious beliefs,” according to Justin Murdock, a member of the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee.
“We wanted a visual, easily recognizable way for Huntington businesses and organizations to show that they have no desire to discriminate against anyone that needs their products or services,” said Murdock.
Businesses who take the “Open to All” Pledge promise to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all employees, visitors, customers, vendors, and clients, regardless of race, religion, ancestry, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or income status.
Murdock said that the full number of participating businesses so far is unknown, but could be as high as 150. “That’s another reason for the relaunch. There isn’t a master list as businesses were just picking up stickers and there wasn’t a formal registration process. We plan to canvass after the relaunch to sign on new people and get a better list of who is already on board. We know 150 stickers went out.”
Murdock said the best way to keep track of participating businesses is to follow the Open to All Facebook page where there will be a running list.
In the time since the Open to All campaign was originally launched, the City has added a Diversity Advisory Committee to focus on promoting racial and cultural diversity in the city.
“Since the original Open to All pledge included being open to all races, religions, genders, disabilities, etc, it was a natural fit for this group to revamp the campaign and make it bigger, better, and more meaningful,” Murdock said.
Plans for expanding the campaign will be announced at the relaunch, but Murdock said he can spill the beans on some of it. “We are excited about some of Huntington’s biggest employers coming on board and the new ‘100 Club’ where Open to All members can voluntarily sign up to go ‘beyond the sticker.’ This requires them to attend a free education workshop offered by the committee and then provide us a narrative of something they have done to promote diversity and inclusion as a company or organization. It’s going to be fun to see all the ways our members come up with to make ‘Open to All’ a real part of their culture.”
The relaunch will be at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 inside Huntington City Hall. During this event, there will be remarks from Mayor Steve Williams, committee members, and representatives of the business and faith-based communities as they talk about the importance of maintaining a welcoming and safe environment for all residents.