FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Patrick A. Paschall
Office: 410-625-5428 x11
Equality Maryland and FreeState Legal Join Forces To Better Serve LGBTQ Marylanders
Baltimore, MD – January 6, 2016 – The Boards of Directors for Equality Maryland Foundation, Equality Maryland Inc., and FreeState Legal Project have announced that the organizations will merge to form a comprehensive, statewide direct legal services and policy advocacy organization that addresses the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Marylanders, with a continued focus on the needs of low-income LGBTQ Marylanders.
“We are excited to better serve the LGBTQ community across all of Maryland,” said Patrick A. Paschall, Executive Director of FreeState Legal. “By combining FreeState Legal’s team of attorneys providing direct legal services with Equality Maryland’s longstanding history as the voice and political arm of the LGBTQ community, we are creating a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights organization that will work throughout the state to end prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“While Maryland’s LGBTQ community has enjoyed many recent successes like the passage of a transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination law and achieving marriage equality, we know that the struggle for equality is far from over, particularly for LGBTQ people of color and those who are low-income” said Jessica P. Weber, Board President of FreeState Legal. “Both FreeState Legal and Equality Maryland receive calls on a daily basis from LGBTQ Marylanders who continue to experience discrimination in housing, health care, employment, and public accommodations, discrimination or harassment in schools and foster care, or the risk of losing custody of their children.”
“Bringing together the expertise and experience of Equality Maryland and FreeState Legal will put us on the path to achieving the goal of full equality for all LGBT Marylanders,” said Lawrence S. Jacobs, Board Chair of Equality Maryland, Inc. “This merger creates a statewide social justice organization that provides direct legal services to low-income LGBT Marylanders, implements and defends legislative protections against discrimination, engages in policy advocacy, organizes and empowers communities, educates and trains individuals and groups on LGBT cultural competence issues, and serves as a watchdog on behalf of Maryland’s entire LGBT community.”
FreeState Legal and Equality Maryland will undergo a strategic planning and stakeholder engagement process to establish a combined mission and vision and a new name for the merged organization. Community listening sessions to gain input from key stakeholders will be soon be scheduled at various locations throughout the state. Mr. Paschall will lead the combined organization, and no staff changes are expected in the immediate future. An announcement will be made in the coming months with details of a celebration event at which the organization’s new name, vision, and mission will be revealed.
“For decades Equality Maryland has led the fight for LGBTQ equality in the state legislature,” said Paschall. “FreeState Legal could not be more excited to join forces with Equality Maryland, an organization that has such a deep history and strong track record of success serving Maryland’s LGBTQ community.”
“Equality Maryland sees this partnership with FreeState Legal as the best way to meet the needs of Maryland’s LGBTQ community,” said Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein, Board Chair for Equality Maryland Foundation. “We are excited about the ways in which our new, combined organization will better serve LGBTQ Marylanders.”
FreeState Legal is a non-profit organization that serves the low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community in Maryland through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, and outreach and training activities. Since 2008, FreeState Legal has provided free legal services to hundreds of low-income LGBTQ people in a variety of areas, such as housing, employment, public accommodations, complex family matters, and others. Through its legal and advocacy work, FreeState Legal has expanded access to health care for transgender Marylanders and ensured that state prisons treat transgender prisoners humanely.
Equality Maryland is Maryland’s largest LGBTQ civil rights and political advocacy organization, with thousands of members statewide. It lobbies in Annapolis and across the state to create equal protection under the law for LGBTQ Marylanders and their families, and works to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQ Marylanders through public education, outreach, training and organizing. Since 1990, Equality Maryland has led numerous legislative and ballot campaigns to secure legal protections for the LGBTQ community in Maryland, including defending marriage equality at the ballot and passing laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.