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LGBTQ rights groups form FreeState Justice

The Baltimore Sun
Two Maryland LGBTQ rights groups form FreeState Justice

Equality Maryland and FreeState Legal announced Thursday their previous merger will form FreeState Justice.

Hundreds of people attended the announcement at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Steve Klepper, attorney at Kramon & Graham, said the night was "celebratory, but with a real sense of how current events still present the LGBT community with great challenges."

The two rights organizations for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people merged in January. Equality Maryland, formed almost three decades ago, acted as the state's largest advocacy group for LGBTQ individuals. FreeState Legal was formed in 2007 and provided legal services for low-income LGBTQ state citizens through its pro bono attorney network.

FreeState Justice, at 231 E. Baltimore St., will serve as a statewide resource for legal services, policy advocacy, education and outreach. The group seeks to help LGBTQ individuals "live authentically, with safety and dignity, in all communities" in Maryland, according to its vision statement.

The passage of non-discrimination laws and marriage equality have been key successes, said Patrick Paschall, FreeState Justice executive director, adding the group will continue to remove barriers for LGBTQ communities.

"We continue to receive calls on a daily basis from LGBTQ Marylanders who still experience discrimination in housing, health care, employment, and public accommodations, who risk of losing custody of their children, and who face bullying and harassment in schools," Paschall said in a statement.

DH DaHitwryter attended the event and said FreeState Legal helped settle her sexual assault case in 2013. The Laurel resident said the merger will make the services of both organizations more visible for vulnerable communities.

"Their merger together is going to further our rights and we can finally be viewed as normal in society."

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