Looking Out: Free State Legal seeking new leader as Merki departs

Free State Legal, which provides legal services to low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in the Baltimore area, is seeking a "passionate and visionary" new leader following the announced departure of its executive director.

Aaron Merki, who helped co-found the nonprofit organization in 2007, has been in the role for the last two years, overseeing several victories. Last month, the group announced it had helped win coverage of transition-related care for transgender state employees under their state health plans.

Merki will continue in his role as executive director until October while the organization searches for his replacement.

The 31-year-old attorney said he left the firm Venable two years ago to help get Free State "off the ground," and has accomplished that goal.

"It's in fantastic shape, and I'm super excited about the work it's doing and will continue to do," he said.

He is leaving for a position with the philanthropic Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, he said, where he will be working on "a mixture of stuff" -- including improving living conditions for the city's aging population.

He'll remain based in Baltimore, but will also be doing work in Hawaii and Israel, where the foundation -- which is based in Owings Mills -- also works, he said.

In a statement on Merki's tenure at Free State, Shannon Avery, the group's chair and a judge in Baltimore, praised him for his leadership.

"Under his direction, FreeState Legal has developed into an incredibly strong and effective nonprofit, and we look forward to Aaron's continued involvement over the long-haul," she said.

Merki said a search committee to find his replacement has attracted "fantastic candidates" from across the country already, and he will be "intimately involved in the transition process." 

Those interested in the position should email a resume, cover letter and salary requirements to edsearch@freestatelegal.org.

Elsewhere in the news: 

- ICYMI, the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on same-sex marriages in Virginia, staying an appeals court ruling in the state that had struck down its ban. The Supreme Court had issued a similar stay in Utah, and is expected to take up at least one of the cases in its coming term.

- The University of Maryland, College Park made the Campus Pride list of the top 50 most LGBT-friendly campuses in the country.

- Apparently the GLCCB has almost sold all of its tickets for its last Orioles Outing event at Camden Yards next week, but has a few left if you're interested.

- UPDATE: Due to rain expected tomorrow, the following has been postponed to Oct. 10. GLSEN Baltimore and Star Track are having a youth health fair and block party from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 120 Penn St.

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