Huntington seeks to be “Open to All”

Mayor Steve Williams, the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee announced an “Open to All” campaign Thursday at Heritage Station’s Visitor Center.

The campaign seeks to actively promote an inclusive environment for all people in Huntington. It was developed by the Mayor’s LGBT Advisor Committee and is supported by the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Williams said he wanted to send a message of Huntington standing together as one community.

“There’s no need to concern what a person’s sexual orientation preference [is], what their gender is identified as being,” Williams said. “We are all Huntingtonians, we’re West Virginians, we’re Americans and we’re moving forward.”

Williams referenced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was rejected in the West Virginia Senate Wednesday, during his speech.

“Now frankly, just because that bill is dead doesn’t mean it has died,” Williams said. “It can always come back, but the point being—in the communication that I was having with legislators—is respect the way a community speaks for itself.”

Marshall professor and chair of the LGBT Advisory Committee Kat Williams urged local businesses to take the “Open to All” pledge and display the campaign’s badge at their facility.

“We invite all of you to take this pledge and help the rest of, explain to the rest of West Virginia, what it means to be open to all,” Kat Williams said.

SEIU WV Coordinator Sherri McKinney said she hopes the campaign will show others Huntington is a welcoming community.

“I think West Virginia as a whole, we get a black eye from people who think that we’re kind of backwoods and backwards on these issues,” McKinney said. “I think it’s very important to see that Huntington, West Virginia does care about the community and we want to attract people to come here.”

McKinney also said she hopes the campaign will inspire other cities to make similar initiatives. 

“I know that there’s a state-wide campaign that’s going on—I’m not familiar with how many cities have come onboard with it,” McKinney said. “I’m glad Huntington is leading the way and really, truly hope that other cities in West Virginia do the same.”

Local businesses and organizations can pick up free brochures and “Open to All” stickers at the Mayor’s Office, located in Room 8 at City Hall or the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce located at 1108 3rd Ave., Suite 300.

Clara Maynard can be contacted at [email protected].