January 25, 2017 at 9:41 am EST | by Steve Charing
2 top directors leaving FreeState Justice
FreeState Justice, gay news, Washington Blade

Patrick Paschall is leaving as executive director of FreeState Justice. (Photo by Bob Ford)

In separate decisions, Patrick A. Paschall, executive director of FreeState Justice, a Baltimore-based nonprofit statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, and its deputy director and managing attorney Jer Welter, announced plans to leave the organization.

FreeState Legal Project, as it had been called, merged with longtime LGBT civil rights organization Equality Maryland in January 2016 and became known as FreeState Justice effective last June.

Paschall, 32, a Hyattsville, Md. resident, told the Blade he wants to spend more time with his two young children and work in public policy. Currently, he spends two-and-a-half hours commuting to and from work each day. He has been the executive director since March 2015.

He notified the board that he plans to leave by the end of March and hopes that a replacement will be hired by then.

“We have very good applicants so far,” Paschall said.

Welter, 39, was at the forefront of many of FreeState’s legal victories. He plans to depart at the end of January to work in appellate litigation as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Maryland but will remain as part of FreeState’s pro bono panel.

An LGBTQ ally, Paschall has had a varied career in LGBTQ activism that included working for the National LGBTQ Task Force where he was senior policy council, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Lambda Legal, Family Equality Council and Pride at Work. Paschall is also an elected official, serving on the Hyattsville City Council since 2013.

“I am incredibly proud of the contributions I have brought to FreeState – merging organizations, rebranding and launching a new strategic plan while continuing to serve hundreds of clients every year and winning groundbreaking legal cases and policy changes in our state,” Paschall told the Blade.

“FreeState Justice is at a pivotal point in our history as we’ve built the model for other states to follow by combining direct legal services with policy advocacy to create a comprehensive statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. And now that we have completed our merger and strategic plan, this is a great time to hand the organization off to the next leader who will take this organization, and LGBTQ rights in Maryland, to new heights.”

As managing attorney, Welter has had a direct involvement in the recent legislative and legal successes in Maryland for LGBT residents.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the organization and of what we have accomplished during my time here — from our legislative victories on gender identity non-discrimination and birth certificate modernization, to our achievements in litigation on insurance coverage for transition-related care, transgender inmate rights, and of course in the Conover case on legal recognition of family relationships,” Welter told the Blade.

“Those are just some of the higher profile issues, but there have also been hundreds of individual community members who we have represented in life-changing legal matters.”

He adds, “I am also excited to enter a new phase of my legal career in public interest, working exclusively in appellate litigation as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Maryland. And although transitions are always a challenge, I think that now is a good time for the organization to bring in new and energetic legal talent to face what we know will be many challenges in the Trump era.”

For more information about FreeState Justice, visit freestatejustice.org.

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