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Open to All campaign enlists 100th member

February 11, 2019
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Mayor Steve Williams, left, and Justin Murdock, right, welcome Patrick "Dr. Skip" Hart and his husband J. Forsyth as the 100th member of the City of Huntington's Open to All Campaign on Wednesday at CoWorks in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — When Patrick “Dr. Skip” Hart and J. Forsyth, his husband and business partner, were looking for a West Virginia city to relocate their functional medicine practice, Huntington seemed like a good option.

The decision to move to the Jewel City was solidified when they visited in August 2018 and saw the “Open to All” campaign stickers in windows and doors of businesses, churches, nonprofit organizations and civic groups downtown. The campaign promotes inclusive environments for all people in the city.

They then researched the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality, which rates how inclusive a city’s municipal laws, policies and services are to members of the LGBTQ community. Huntington remains the highest-ranking city for inclusiveness in West Virginia for three straight years, earning a score of 95 out of 100.

“Before we left, we had looked at each other and we said, ‘Well, this is where we are going to live,’” Forsyth said.

Hart and Forsyth said they were surprised when they were asked by members of the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee to become the 100th organization to join the Open to All campaign. Together they operate Ask-DrSkip.com.

They took a pledge for inclusiveness during a ceremony Feb. 6 outside their practice at the CoWorks Building on 5th Avenue. They then got to place an Open to All sticker outside their office similar to the decals that drew them to Huntington in the first place.

“We were very honored,” Hart said.

Since launching in 2016, the campaign has enlisted 99 other organizations and businesses, including Marshall University, Cabell Huntington Hospital and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. The campaign offers free diversity training to all its members and has helped advocate for nondiscrimination policies on the state and federal level.

“My vision for the city is that we embrace our diversity and actively seek inclusiveness as we learn to stand as one people celebrating our differences,” Mayor Steve Williams said in a statement. “We will be able to transform our future by assuring every person in our city feels welcome.”

Hart and Forsyth said they both craved a sense of community, something they never experienced previously living in Dallas. They knew they

found it in Huntington when people started inviting them to their Thanksgiving dinners, Forsyth said.

“We wanted a community and that was not something we had in Dallas,” Hart said. “We were stumbling on it almost the minute we came here, which is what we were craving in a sense.”

Hart is an acupuncture physician with a doctorate in oriental medicine and a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. He also has training in functional medicine, which is taking modern lab results combined with alternative medicine approaches. He focuses on fertility, women’s wellness and pelvic pain, among other areas.

For more information on the Open to All campaign and how to enlist your organization, visit Facebook and search for “Huntington Open to All” or email opentoall@cityofhuntington.com.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The He rald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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