FreeState Legal is a legal advocacy organization that seeks to improve the lives of low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) Marylanders. Despite recent, incremental judicial victories for the national LGBT community, the low-income LGBT population continues to struggle with legal challenges such harassment, complex family law issues, and anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, foster care, healthcare and public accommodations. In addition to needing attorneys with specific knowledge of how the law affects LGBT citizens, LGBT clients need attorneys who will treat them with respect and understanding. FreeState’s mission is to combine direct legal services with education and outreach to ensure that the low-income LGBT community Maryland receives fair treatment in the law and society.
FreeState was founded in 2007 by a group of attorneys and law students who recognized that the specific needs of the low-income LGBT population were not being effectively met. To date, FreeState is one of only a few direct service LGBT advocacy organizations in the United States. FreeState began accepting cases in 2008 and began building a network of pro bono attorneys who volunteer their time to assist clients.
Since 2008, FreeState has been expanding the ways in which it promotes justice for the low-income LGBT community Maryland. FreeState (1) provides direct legal services to low-income LGBT clients through its in-house counsel and pro bono attorney network; (2) works towards systemic law and policy changes through governmental advocacy; (3) conducts outreach activities designed to promote self-advocacy within the LGBT community, particularly among LGBT teens; and (4) provides educational training to Maryland lawyers and judges about LGBT legal needs.
Begun in 1988 under the name of the Baltimore Justice Coalition, then Free State Justice, Equality Maryland (renamed in 2004) has fought diligently in the state capital and local jurisidctions to win equal rights.
Equality Maryland Foundation’s educational and coalition-building work has included formation of:
Equality Maryland has produced groundbreaking publications like Jumping the Broom: A Black Perspective on Same-Gender Marriage, which is now used across the United States;What’s In a Word? A Religious Perspective on Civil Marriage Equality; Marriage Inequality In the State of Maryland, and the video Heart of the Matter: Maryland’s Same-Sex Couples Seek Justice for their Families. Equality Maryland has also produced a video series “Stand With Us.” These public service announcements are written and produced by trans individauls and have been well received.
Most importantly, Equality Maryland has built a strong network of citizen voices and a solid coalition of organizations who are tireless in their commitment to fairness and justice.