Patrick Paschall is the Executive Director of FreeState Justice, a social justice organization that works statewide to improve the lives of LGBTQ Marylanders and their families through legal services, policy advocacy, outreach, education, and coalition building. Raised by a low-income single mother and the first in his family to attend college (and later law school), Patrick knows first-hand the many barriers that struggling families face, from housing and healthcare to employment and education.
Prior to joining FreeState, Patrick was Senior Policy Counsel at the National LGBTQ Task Force where he led an aggressive policy portfolio focusing on federal administrative policy and state/local non-discrimination legislation, including a deep focus in health care, housing, employment, criminal justice, anti-violence, and religious exemption issues. Patrick earned his J.D. at Hofstra University School of Law, where he was awarded a coveted LGBT Rights Fellowship – the only law school fellowship in the country dedicated to training the next generation of legal advocates on LGBT issues. He has had a varied career in LGBTQ activism, having worked for the National Center for Transgender Equality, Lambda Legal, Family Equality Council, Pride at Work, and others.
Patrick was elected to serve his community in 2013 as an elected official on the Hyattsville City Council where he wrote the Hyattsville Human Rights Act, making Hyattsville the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a transgender-inclusive non-discrimination law. In addition, Patrick drafted and passed a measure that made Hyattsville the second jurisdiction in the country to lower the voting age to 16. As a Council Member, Patrick focuses his initiatives on voter engagement, collective bargaining rights, environmental sustainability, and policies that benefit low-income workers and their families.
Jer Welter is the Managing Attorney of FreeState Justice. As Deputy Director, Jer supervises and conducts FreeState’s in-house litigation program, bringing cases to vindicate LGBT Marylanders’ hard-won civil rights and engaging in strategic advocacy to expand access to justice for the LGBT community.
Before joining FreeState, Jer was a Staff Attorney with Maryland Legal Aid. While at Legal Aid, Jer authored the successful certiorari petition in a significant landlord-tenant case, McDaniel v. Baranowski, 419 Md. 56, 19 A.3d 927 (2011) (holding that a landlord cannot sue a tenant in rent court unless the landlord has obtained a license to rent the property, in jurisdictions that require licensure). Jer also served as Law Clerk and, later, Senior Law Clerk to the Hon. Ellen Lipton Hollander, during her tenure on both the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Jer received his B.A. with honors from Goucher College and his J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University. He served as co-president of the LGBT student associations at both schools. During law school, Jer was a McCleary Law Fellow with the Human Rights Campaign and a legal intern with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. He was Articles Editor for the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, and is the author of “Sexual Privacy After Lawrence: Zones of Dignity,” 7 Geo. J. Gender & L. 723 (2006). Jer is admitted to practice in all Maryland state courts, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Laura McMahon DePalma is a Staff Attorney at FreeState Justice. A significant portion of Laura’s work is representation of FreeState Legal’s clients seeking name changes and decrees of legal gender identity in state circuit courts. Laura also manages the organization’s pro bono panel, and works to engage practitioners all over the State of Maryland to help FreeState Legal carry out its mission.
Prior to working at FreeState Legal, Laura was a Court-Appointed Attorney for the District Court of Maryland, where she represented indigent clients appearing before District Court Commissioners in preliminary hearings. Laura also worked as a Volunteer Attorney with the Aggravated Homicide Division of the Public Defender’s office. During law school, Laura volunteered as a Law Clerk with the Felony Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and represented OPD clients as a Rule 16 Student Attorney.
Laura obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from Smith College. She attended law school at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. She lives in Patterson Park with her wife, Katie; and her furbabies, Jada and Linus.