Widely recognized for her pioneering work on gender, family care, youth decision-making, and household labor, Silbaugh is a leader in the legal literature on the relationship between work and family. Her research highlights the economic and social value of work done within households; the complex relationship between families and institutions, such as employers and schools; and the inadequacy of the legal framework supporting care work. Her publications about the relationship between institutions and family address a range of legal systems from family law and employment law to urban planning and education law. She has intervened in policy matters of particular concern to LGBTQ individuals, including marriage equality litigation and anti-bullying law and policy.
Professor Silbaugh clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She later collaborated with Posner on a survey of sexual regulation, A Guide to America’s Sex Laws, published by the University of Chicago Press. She is co-author of The Essentials of Family Law (2009) with Katharine K. Baker. She also is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, including the landmark article “Turning Labor into Love: Housework and the Law” for Northwestern Law Review. She contributed to the plaintiffs’ case in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts case that won the nation’s first same-sex marriage right in 2004, as well as to Gill v. O.P.M. in 2011 before the 1st Circuit and United States v. Windsor in 2013 before the United States Supreme Court, both successfully challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. She has provided advice on anti-bullying legislation to the Youth Meanness and Cruelty Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, and serves on several education-related boards and committees. She served on an advisory committee of momsrising.org that drafted model state legislation on Family Responsibility Discrimination. She has served as an elected Town Meeting Member in Brookline, Massachusetts since 2010.
Professor Silbaugh joined the Boston University faculty in 1993, received tenure and a full professorship in 1998, and was named Law Alumni Scholar in 2007. She served as the associate dean for academic affairs from 2004 until 2006. She spent the 2006–2007 academic year and fall 2009 as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and was a visiting professor of law at Chuo University in Toyko in the fall of 2007. She teaches Family Law; Education Law; Legislation; Employment Discrimination; Women, Work, and Families; Gender and the Law, and Torts. Professor Silbaugh was the recipient in 2004 of the Michael Melton Award for Excellence in Teaching.