FreeState Justice announced new leaders in two key roles at the organization on March 20. Mark A. Procopio will become the organization’s executive director and Jennifer L. Kent will lead FreeState’s legal and policy advocacy efforts as managing attorney.
They replaced Patrick A. Paschall and Jer Welter, respectively, who left the organization earlier in the year to pursue other careers.
Baltimore-based FreeState Justice is Maryland’s statewide legal services and policy advocacy organization that represents the LGBTQ population.
Procopio, whose position is effective March 27, comes to FreeState Justice from a career in development and management for local educational institutions in Baltimore. Most recently, Procopio served as Interim Director of Operations for KIPP Baltimore where he led fundraising, community organizing, advocacy, marketing, and communications for the Baltimore-based charter school network.
“I am humbled and eager to continue FreeState Justice’s work in ensuring that every member of the LGBTQ community in Maryland can live authentically, with safety and dignity,” Procopio told the Blade.
“Our priority is to continue to answer the incredible demand for legal services in the LGBTQ community. We have to listen to our clients’ needs and partner with local organizations to best meet those needs. With so much uncertainty at present, we must focus on shoring up our local laws to insulate from federal policies that target our community, like those seen against transgender students,” he said.
Kent’s work at FreeState Justice began on March 20. Her experience includes litigating complex cases on behalf of victims of terrorism and civil rights abuses. Kent previously volunteered with FreeState Justice and co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of a national transgender advocacy organization in the Conover case last year, an appeal brought by FreeState that led Maryland’s highest court to affirm the parental rights of LGBTQ non-biological parents.
“I’m honored to fight for LGBTQ Marylanders across the state,” said Kent in a statement. “In the face of the attacks on the LGBTQ community at the federal level, our team will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our state protections are enforced and policies are inclusive here in Maryland. I am eager to lead those efforts as FreeState’s Managing Attorney.”
Jessica P. Weber, president of FreeState Justice’s board of directors, said, “All of us at FreeState Justice are very excited about the leadership, experience, and passion these two new leaders bring to the organization. Mark’s outstanding experience and track record of success in development and management, combined with his background working with Baltimore City youth from low-income backgrounds, will be a great asset to LGBTQ Marylanders as he takes the helm of this organization at such a critical time in our history.”
Weber also highlighted the importance of bringing on a seasoned managing attorney. “Jennifer has spent years advocating for individuals who have suffered grave injustices,” she said. “We are thrilled that she is bringing her great skill and depth of experience to FreeState Justice where she will enhance our ability to fight tenaciously on behalf LGBTQ Marylanders most at risk of discrimination.”