Natalie Amato, a 2011 graduate of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, was honored by two organizations for her paper entitled, "Black v. Simms: A Lost Opportunity to Benefit Children by Preserving Sibling Relationships When Same-Sex Families Dissolve." The paper won first place in the American Bar Association's 2011 Howard C. Schwab Student Essay Contest, and it was first runner up in the National LGBT Bar Association's 2011 Michael Greenberg Student Writing Competition.
Ms. Amato's paper, which was supervised by Prof. Jana Singer, discusses the importance of sibling relationships and their crucial impact on children's development and examines a Louisiana Court of Appeal case that denied a lesbian de facto parent (Black) custody or visitation rights to her partner's child. The lesbian couple used the same sperm donor and raised two children together; thus, the children were biologically related and were raised in the same household.
When the Louisiana Court of Appeal denied Black access to the child she helped plan for and raise, it also effectively severed the psychological and legal ties between the half siblings, Braelyn and Eli. The paper concludes that the recognition of gay and lesbian de facto parents' rights benefits children by protecting sibling relationships that are crucial to children's emotional, intellectual, social and psychological development. Finally, the paper also notes that Black v. Simms serves as an important example of the harm that may come to children of same-sex couples when the law fails to adapt to the changing composition of the American family.
Ms. Amato's paper will be published in the Fall 2011 edition of the American Bar Association's Family Law Quarterly.
During her time at UM Carey Law, Ms. Amato was a Rose Zetzer Fellow, which is a fellowship program that is part of the Women, Leadership & Equality Program at the law school. She demonstrated the strong intellectual interest in and commitment to women’s issues that the Rose Zetzer Fellowship Program seeks in its Fellows. Ms. Amato’s winning paper is a clear example of that. Rose Zetzer was a 1925 alumna of the School of Law and a lifelong advocate of women’s issues. In 1946, she became the first woman admitted to the Maryland Bar Association, which she lobbied for nearly 20 years (starting in 1927) to gain admittance.
The Howard C. Schwab Memorial Essay Contest, conducted annually by the ABA Section of Family Law, was established by the Toledo Bar Association and the Ohio Bar Foundation as a memorial to Howard C. Schwab, a Past President of the Toledo Bar Association and Past Chairman of the Family Law Committee of the Ohio Bar Association. The purpose of the contest is to create greater interest in the field of family law among all law students, and particularly the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association.
The Michael Greenberg Student Writing Competition was established in memory of Michael Greenberg, a former National LGBT Bar Association board member and Philadelphia attorney who died in 1996 from complications of AIDS. This competition is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing outstanding law student scholarship on the legal issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. Each year, the LGBT Bar receives dozens of submissions from law students on the cutting edge legal issues affecting the LGBT community.
Ms. Amato is primarily interested in the areas of criminal and family law. While at UM Carey Law, she participated in the Juvenile Law Clinic and interned for the Honorable Catherine C. Blake on the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Ms. Amato will soon start a new position as a law clerk in the Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement Division (the F.I.V.E. Division) of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.