West Virginia REALTORS Join City’s “Open to All” Anti-Discrimination Campaign
REALTORS® from Real Estate Central in Huntington, West Virginia are championing the city’s Open to All campaign, which fits perfectly within the spirit of the Fair Housing Act.
Photo: REALTORS® from Real Estate Central in Huntington, West Virginia
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
Joshua McGrath, owner of Real Estate Central in Huntington, West Virginia – an agency with five different locations and 105 licensees – had just finished watching a video from the National Association of REALTORS® talking about the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
“I challenged [the licensees] to come up with something that we can do, to show how it’s right to be treating everyone equally.”
That’s when Bobby Eschbacher, a REALTOR® in McGrath’s Barboursville office, saw the City of Huntington was relaunching its “Open to All” anti-discrimination campaign.
It didn’t take much for Eschbacher to put two and two together.
He brought the idea to McGrath, and Real Estate Central became one of the local businesses championing the Open to All campaign, which fits perfectly within the spirit of the Fair Housing Act.
“We are the second largest real estate firm in the area,” McGrath said. “Originally we were just going to do some ads in the local Real Estate guide geared toward the celebration of fair housing, but now we’re going to do so much more.”
McGrath and his team will be taking part in the Charleston Multicultural Festival in the fall. They are also working on the creation of a program to help mentally and physically challenged adults be able to rent or own their own homes.
Real Estate Central is in the early phases of the process that they are undertaking for this initiative, but another thing McGrath is committed to advocating against is bullying that is rooted in race, gender and sexual orientation.
“We’re in rural West Virginia,” McGrath said. “Diversity has always been a little on the back end.”
Photo: Joshua McGrath
McGrath was bullied mercilessly as a kid for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he is openly gay. He said dealing with the bullying only made him stronger, but that so many friends of his couldn’t handle it and took far more drastic steps to end the bullying.
“They’re not with us anymore,” he said somberly.
But the bullying doesn’t stop in adulthood.
McGrath ran for the West Virginia House of Delegates in 2014 and after winning the Primary, lost the General election. He said his opposition targeted the fact that he was gay as a negative, saying it was a reason to not vote for him.
“It was eye-opening and a learning experience,” McGrath said. “It was a great experience. I really enjoyed it. My lifestyle is what it is. I don’t throw it at people. If I’m asked I talk about it, but it doesn’t define me.
“I’m gay, but that’s not important. I run the second largest real estate company in the market. I have probably the most diverse agency when it comes to age, race, sexual orientation and religion. I’m proud that we can put all these people in the same room together and work together and that ultimately we respect each other’s views.”“I’m proud that we can put all these people in the same room together and work together and that ultimately we respect each other’s views.” - Joshua McGrathClick To Tweet
Organizations, such as Real Estate Central, who have taken the “Open to All” pledge, publicly display the movement’s decal in the window of their businesses and become members of the diversity campaign. If they choose, they can take the voluntary next step into the “One Hundred Club,” which includes free educational workshops, publicity and inclusion in special events.
According to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Huntington received a score of 95 on a 100-point scale and was also one of 41 cities to earn an “All Star” designation for advancing LGBTQ equality without relying on state law as part of the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Municipal Equality Index.
The index ranks 506 U.S. cities of varying sizes on a number of factors, including nondiscrimination laws, municipal employment policies, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement with regard to LGBTQ people and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
Interestingly enough, while Huntington is one of 11 cities and towns in West Virginia that has added LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinances to their statutes, the state’s human rights act and hate crime laws do not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I would love to think we can be part of starting a trend that others follow that is geared toward respect of fellow man,” McGrath said. “Our country is so divided because everyone feels they have to be so starkly on one side or the other – I don’t believe that – as long as we respect each other there’s room for middle ground.”
And one of the first steps McGrath and his team can take in being those trendsetters, is by promoting fair housing and being “Open to all.”
After all, Fair Housing, he said, makes us stronger.
“It does because it opens the door of inclusion, diversity and other possibilities that are out there,” he said. “The more diverse a community is, the more culture people in that community has exposure to. And why not? That’s what America is all about. We are a melting pot. Having a community that is stronger means we are not divided. United we stand, divided we fall. It’s that simple.”
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