Delaware professor co-authors book to help same-sex couples navigate legal issues

Widener University Law Professor John Culhane recently co-authored a book for a popular self-help series titled Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies

The book joins more than 1,800 publications in the “for Dummies” series and is the first to address issues in the LGBT community.

Culhane, who has been a member of the Widener Law faculty since 1987 and serves as the director of Widener’s Health Law Institute, has spent many years producing legal scholarship for various websites and blogs including in hopes of sharing his work with a broader audience.

“When I was contacted about the Dummies book I thought this would be the perfect way to do that,” said Culhane. “The whole idea of the Dummies series is to make things accessible to the general public.”

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Throughout the book, Culhane and co-author Carrie Stone, a practicing attorney who maintains a website called, address many of the unique legal challenges that same-sex couples face in one comprehensive and easy to understand guide.

“She’s interested in the practical day to day questions that face gay and lesbian couples in trying to structure their lives because they don’t have the protection of marriage in many cases,” explained Culhane. “What my background enabled me to do was to talk about the broader legal landscape in which these issues get addressed.”

Culhane covered laws on marriage, civil unions, the Defensive Marriage Act, immigration, life in the military and family planning while Stone addressed topics such as trusts, medical powers of attorney and wills.

According to Culhane, although some states legally recognize same-sex marriage, many issues, for example, immigration, are federally regulated and don’t apply to same-sex couples.

“For example, people don’t really think about what the effect of the law is on same sex couples when they want to move to a different country,” said Cuhane. “If you’re legally married, one spouse can sponsor the other into the country. However, that can’t happen for same-sex couples even if they’re legally married in a state because of the Defense of Marriage Act which says marriage, for federal purposes, is restricted to a man and a woman.”

Cuhane said he hopes the book will help same-sex couples navigate some of these complex issues.

“What sustained me in writing my half of the book was just the realization that it could do some good for a lot of people who would maybe not know where else to turn,” he said. “You can scour the web for bits and pieces here and there but to collect it all in one place is pretty comprehensive.”

Additionally, Culhane said the book can also be useful for unmarried couples or anyone interested in same-sex marriage laws.

“The chapters are intended to be modular so if you’re interested in a particular topic, they’re designed so you can read that chapter or those chapters without a lot of cross-referencing.”

The book was released last month and Culhane and Stone will be having their first book signing on December 15 at Giovanni’s Room bookstore in Philadelphia.

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