Widener Law professor’s piece on marriage and civil unions attracts wide audience
Public Relations - Published: January 17, 2012
Culhane 240pxProfessor John Culhane discovered something unexpected while working on a book about civil unions: The state of Illinois was offering the civil union option to straight couples, too. Civil unions had originally been intended as a compromise to the demands for full marriage equality made by gay and lesbian couples.

A conversation he had with the Cook County clerk’s office in Chicago on the subject prompted a friendly clerk there to survey opposite-sex couples and learn their reasons for choosing the civil union – even though it doesn’t confer the full benefits of marriage. And the clerk also provided Culhane with contact information for couples willing to discuss the matter further with him.

After reviewing the report and conducting Skype interviews with several of the couples, Culhane shared his findings and conclusions with the readers of Slate.com in a thought-provoking essay, “No to Nuptials.” Culhane is a contributor to the online magazine, which attracts 3.6 million unique visitors each month, His piece, published Jan. 3, appeared on the site’s most read, most liked and most commented lists for about 48 hours after it went up. It’s logged more than 225 comments.

One of the readers was a producer at Radio Times in Philadelphia. After an initial inquiry from Widener’s Public Relations Office, Culhane was invited to be a guest on Radio Times for a show on gay marriage that will broadcast live at 10 a.m. Thursday, January 19th over 90.9 FM and at WHYY.org. UPDATE: Professor Culhane's Radio Times appearance has been rescheduled to Monday, January 23rd from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Culhane was also recently invited to speak on the topic to the Chicago Lawyers' Division of the American Constitution Society, and will present his work to that group March 27.

“In the end, the civil union debate may even turn out to be more interesting than the whole question of marriage equality,” Culhane said. “Because the presence of civil unions forces us to ask hard questions about what marriage is. The couples interviewed in the Slate article have done just that.”

Read Culhane’s blog at wordinedgewise.org and his column, “Law, Unwrapped,” at The New Civil Rights Movement.