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John Culhane

Professor of Law

B.A., The College of William and Mary 

J.D., Fordham University School of Law


Email: [email protected]

Phone: 302.477.2107


John Culhane is Distinguished Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Family Health Law & Policy Institute at Widener University Delaware Law School, and a contributing writer for both Slate and Politico.

He is the author of More than Marriage: Forming Families After Marriage Equality (Cal Press 2023), and co-author of “Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies.” He is also the editor and a contributor to “Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates: A Public Health Perspective,” and the author of some three dozen law review articles on a wide range of topics, including: the rights of LGBT couples; compensation of victims of mass disasters; the public health implications of such disparate issues as sports-related concussions, bullying, same-sex marriages, and vaccine compensation policy; and a wide range of tort law issues (including informed consent, product liability, and educational malpractice). 

In addition to Slate and Politico, Professor Culhane’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, the Huffington Post, Dissent Magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia City Paper, and in many other news outlets. He has been featured on a number of radio and television shows, including All Things Considered, Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, the Michael Smerconish Show, local NBC and CBS affiliates, DEL-TV, America Weekend, Press Play with Madeleine Brand, American Law Journal, Voice of America, Midday with Dan Rodricks, The Mitch Albom Show, and The Gil Gross Show. He appears in the feature-length documentary “America Betrayed”, where he discusses the disparate treatment given to victims of the September 11 terrorist attack and those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

He has thrice won the Outstanding Faculty award at Widener and has twice received the Douglas E. Ray Scholarship Award.

Before coming to Widener in 1987, Professor Culhane was an associate editor of the Fordham Law Review. He then clerked for the Hon. Joseph M. McLaughlin, in federal district court in New York City, before working for the New York

law firm of Cahill Gordon and Reindel. From 1986-87, he was a Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. He has also been a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University and California Western School of Law, and is currently a visiting professor at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University. He also teaches a class in Shakespeare and the Law at Drexel University.

Prof. Culhane lives in Philly with his husband and two daughters. He enjoys swimming, tennis, reading, and...well, life.

What inspires me to teach?

Teaching is a complex and rewarding activity. I enjoy the constant challenge students present, as they strive to expand their knowledge and deepen their comprehension of often dense and even “messy” legal doctrine and policy. When this challenge is met, the entire class – students and professor – can achieve great things together. And it’s just plain fun, too.

In what ways do I give back…

I serve the community in a number of ways. I have been on the board of several non-profit organizations, and currently serve in that capacity for the Human Subject Research Board of Delaware. I have collaborated with LGBT organizations on matters relating to equality, and I am on the Advisory Council for Equality Delaware.


Family Law, Torts, Public Health Law; Previously: Business Organizations; Advanced Torts; HIV and the Law; Contemporary Tort Theory; Comparative Health Law; Global Public Health; Comparative Tort Systems; Securities Litigation


Publications on Selected Works

Publications on SSRN


Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies (with Carrie Stone) (John Wiley & Sons, 2013).

Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates: A Public Health Perspective (editor and contributor) (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Book Chapters

Ball of Con(stitutional) Fusion: The Supreme Court’s Evolving Gay Rights Jurisprudence, in Controversies in Equal Protection Cases in America: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation  (forthcoming, July 2015).

Public Health and Marriage (Equality), in Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates (above).

Introduction: Bringing Public Health to Bear on Contentious Legal and Social Issues, in Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates.

Law Journal Articles

After Marriage Equality, What’s Next for Relationship Recognition?, ___ S. D. L. Rev. ____ (forthcoming 2015).

United States v. Windsor and the Future of Civil Unions and Other Marriage Alternatives,59 Vill. L. Rev. Tolle Lege 27 (2013).

Book Review Essay, Emily Bazelon, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, 22 Temple Pol. & Civ. Rights L. Rev. 262 (2013).

Bullying, Litigation, and Populations: The Limited Effect of Title IX, 35 West. New Eng. L. Rev. 323 (2013).

Sandusky’s Victims: Compensation, Vindication, and Blame, 22 Widener L. J. 589 (2013).

The NFL and Beyond: Compensation, Litigation, and Public Health Issues in the Concussion Cases, 8 Florida Int’l L. Rev. 5 (2012).

Duty Per Se: Reading Duty to Report Child Abuse Statutes to Create a Common Law Duty, 19 Widener L. Rev. 73  (2013) in Symposium, Bradley and Beyond.

Civil Unions Reconsidered, 26 J. Civ. Rts. & Econ. Dev. 621 (2012).

Toward a Mature Doctrine of Informed Consent: Lessons from a Comparative Law Analysis, 1 British J. Am. Leg. Stud. 551 (2012) (with K.-J. Wu, O. Faparusi, and E. Juray) (peer-reviewed).

More Than the Victims: A Population-Based, Public Health Approach to Bullying of LGBT Youth, 38 Rutgers L. Rec. 163 (2011).

Marriage Equality? First, Justify Marriage (If You Can), 1 Drexel L. Rev. 485 (2009).

Marriage, Tort, and Private Ordering: Rhetoric and Reality in LGBT Rights, 84 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 437 (2009).

The Short, Puzzling(?) Life of the Civil Union, 19 B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 1 (2009).

Beyond Rights and Morality: The Overlooked Public Health Argument for Same-Sex Marriage, 17 J. L. & Sexuality 7 (2008).

What Does Justice Require for the Victims of Katrina and September 11?,  10 DePaul J. Health Care L. 179 (2007).

The Gay Marriage Backlash and its Spillover Effects: Lessons from a (Slightly) “Blue State,” (with Stacey L. Sobel) 40 Tulsa L. Rev. 443 (2005), in
Symposium: The Legislative Backlash to Advances in Rights for Same-Sex Couples.

"Lawrence-ium”: The Densest Known Substance?, 11 Widener L. Rev. 259 (2005), in Symposium: Readings of Lawrence v. Texas.

Bad Science, Worse Policy: The Exclusion of Gay Males from Donor Pools, 24 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 129 (2005), in
Symposium: Out of the Closet and Into the Light: The Legal Issues of Sexual Orientation.

Writing On, Around, and Through Lawrence v. Texas, 38 Creighton L. Rev. 493 (2005), in Symposium on the Implications of Lawrence and Goodridge for the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages and the Validity of DOMA.

Book Review Essay, Sex, Fear, and Public Health Policy, 5 Yale J. Health Pol’y L. & Ethics 327 (2005) (reviewing William J. Woods and Diane Binson, eds, Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy (2003)).

Even More Wrongful Death: Statutes Divorced from Reality, 32 Fordham Urb. L. J. 171 (2005), in Special Series: 2003 Lavender Law Conference.

Public Nuisance Claims Against Gun Sellers: New Insights and Challenges (with Jean Eggen),  38 Mich. J. L. Reform 1 (2004).

The Heterosexual Agenda, 13 Widener L. J. 759 (2004), in Symposium: The Right to Marry: Making the Case to go Forward.

Tort, Compensation, and Two Kinds of Justice, 55 Rutgers L. Rev. 1027 (2003).

Gun Torts: Defining a Cause of Action for Victims in Suits Against Gun Manufacturers (with J. Eggen), 81 N.C. L. Rev. 115 (2002).

Recurring Nightmare: Barriers to Effective Treatment of HIV in the United States and Internationally, 35 John Marshall L. Rev. 381 (2002), in Presentation: Dealing with International AIDS: A Case Study  in the Challenges of Globalization, 35 John Marshall L. Rev. 381-432).

AIDS in National and International Law (Remarks on Barriers to Prevention and Treatment), in Proceedings of the 96th Annual Meeting, American Society of Int’l Law at 320, 324 (2002).

Defining a Proper Role for Public Nuisance Law in Municipal Suits Against Gun Sellers: Beyond Rhetoric and Expedience (with Jean Eggen), 52 S. Car. L. Rev. 217 (2001).

A ‘Clanging Silence’: Same-Sex Couples and Tort Law, 89 Ky. L.J. 911 (2000-2001), in Symposium: From Outlaws to In-Laws: Issues Surrounding the Evolving Legal Status of Lesbian and Gay.

A Tale of Two Concurrences: Same-Sex Marriage and Products Liability, 7 W. & M. J. Women & L. 447 (2001).

Uprooting the Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage, 20 Cardozo L. Rev. 1119 (1999).

Book Review Essay, Robert Wintemute, Sexual Orientation and Human Rights, 16 Wisc. Int’l L.J. 579 (1998).

The Emperor Has No Causation: Exposing a Judicial Misconstruction of Science, 2 Widener L. Sym. J. 185 (1997).

The Limits of Product Liability Reform Within a Consumer Expectation Model: A Comparison of Approaches Taken by the United States and the European Union, 19 Hastings Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 1 (1995).

Reinvigorating Educational Malpractice Claims: A Representational Focus, 66 Wash. L. Rev. 349 (1992).

Real and Imagined Effects of Statutes Limiting the Liability of Non-Manufacturing Sellers of Defective Products, 95 Dickinson L. Rev. 287 (1991).

Spielberg Reconsidered: Problems in Application and Content of the Deferral Doctrine, 49 Fordham L. Rev. 1116 (1981).


The Doomed Sandy Hook Lawsuit, Slate, Dec. 16, 2014.

Are Parents Obliged to Pay for College, Slate, Dec. 5, 2014.

After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Slate, Nov. 11, 2014.

Bespoke Babies, Slate, Oct. 3, 2014.

What Today’s Gay Marriage Victory in Pennsylvania Means for the Rest of America, Slate, May 20, 2014.

Pay Up, BP!, SLATE, May 19, 2014.

What We’re Losing When We Lose Giovanni’s Room, Phila. City Paper, May 15, 2014,

In Pennsylvania, the State Can’t Bring Itself to Justify its Gay Marriage Ban, Slate, May 15, 2014.

How to Fix Baseball’s Replay Mess, SLATE, April 16, 2014.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Goal of Obamacare, March 28, 2014, DELCO TIMES.

U.S. v. Windsor Must Be This Generation’s Brown v. Board of Education, Not Its Roe v. Wade, SLATE, March 6, 2014.

Casinos for Seniors: Full of Sound and Light, Signifying Emptiness, HUFF. POST, Feb. 26, 2014.

Michael Sam Understands That Football is a Business. That’s Why He Felt Comfortable Coming Out, SLATE, Feb. 15, 2014

Hey, Hey, NCAA. Unionize College Sports Today, SLATE, Jan. 29, 2014.

How to Sue Over the Christie Bridge Scandal and Win, Slate, Jan. 14, 2014.

A New HBO Film Focuses on Elizabeth Taylor’s Involvement in the Fight Against AIDS, Slate, Dec. 2, 2013.

The Case of the Errant Hot Dog Toss, Slate, Nov. 22, 2013.

Jonathan Rauch’s Staggeringly Naïve View of LGBTQ Lives, Slate, Nov. 19, 2013.

Gay Marriage is Booming. Where Does that Leave Civil Unions?, Slate, Nov. 8, 2013.

Gov. Corbett’s Corrosive Condescension, Slate, Oct. 5, 2013, at: (cross-posted to Huffington Post)

The Most Ingenious Attack on Gay Marriage Bans, Slate, Oct. 2, 2013, at: (reprinted by L.A. Times, Chi. Tribune, Miami Herald, Denver Post, Charlotte Observer, Newsday)

Once Again on Taxes, Obama Supports LGBT Rights by Leaving Congress out of It, Slate, Sept. 3, 2013.

Suspend Your Disbelief, Slate, August 6, 2013, at:

Op-ed, Make Gun Companies Pay Blood Money, New York Times, June 23, 2013 (with Lucinda M. Finley), at:

My Life Among the (Somewhat Gay-Friendly) Mormons, Huffington Post, May 14, 2013, at:

The Ennead Awards: Nine Justices, Nine Prizes, Huffington Post, April 10, 2013, at:

DIG It, Slate, March 28, 2013, at:

Coercion, Not Consent, Huffington Post, March 20, 2013 (with Gayle Matthews), at:

NASCAR Fans v. Flying Car Parts, Slate, March 1, 2013, at:

Sue the Gun Makers, and the Sellers, Too, Slate, Dec. 19, 2012, at

Have Gay Marriage Advocates Been Too Successful?, Slate, Dec. 10, 2012, at:

Penn State’s Disaster Cleanup, Slate, July 9, 2012, at:

California Should Not Pass ‘Multiple Parents’ Bill, Huffington Post, Aug. 17, 2012 (with Elizabeth Marquardt), at:

In the ‘Baby Veronica’ Case, Shouldn’t We Ask What’s Best for the Child, Slate, Aug. 28, 2012, at:

Are The Norms of Marriage Worth Saving? New York Times, Room for Debate, January 20, 2012, at:

No to Nuptials, Slate, January 3, 2012, at:

Concussions and Cigarettes, Slate, July 26, 2011, at

The NFL’s Next Big Headache?, Slate, February 2, 2011, at:

Why the 9/11 Bill is Fair Enough (Even If It’s Not Perfectly Just), Slate, December 23, 2010, at:

The Wizardry of Ken Feinberg, Slate, July 22, 2010, at:

Sandbags Full of Money: Victim Compensation After 9/11, Dissent, Fall 2003 at 57, at:

Documentary Film

Featured in America Betrayed, on governmental failures contributing to effects of Hurricane Katrina, and on compensating victims of disaster (narrator: Richard Dreyfuss)

Amicus briefs

Worked on several briefs relating to litigation challenging section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (including brief filed in U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor case, filed by Family Law Professors.

Curriculum Vitae

John Culhane CV