eHarmony to Provide Gay Dating Service After Lawsuit

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The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General announced the launch of eHarmony’s new website “Compatible Partners,” for gay and lesbian users, earlier this week. The creation of the site was the result of a settlement with Eric McKinely, a gay man from New Jersey. New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo reported that the website will provide services for users seeking same-sex partners, who had previously been excluded from eHarmony.

Dr. Neil Clark Warren founded eHarmony in 2000 upon Christian principles, with a primary focus on marriage-minded adults. It excluded gay men and lesbians, say representatives of the dating site, because same-sex marriage was, and remains, illegal in most states, and the site did not want to go against the law.

Eric McKinley filed a complaint against the online service on March 14, 2005, based on the Law Against Discrimination. As part of the agreement, eHarmony will pay pay McKinley $5000 and grant him free membership for a year.

Membership will be also free for the first 10,000 registered users. Compatible Partners and eHarmony will maintain individual matching pools and registration information. The company announced that as a result, users of the Compatible Partners site and eHarmony.com cannot be paired together.

The online dating service had been sued in May 2007 by Linda Carlson, alleging it discriminated against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Carlson reported she tried to use the website a month earlier to meet a woman, but was refused based on her sexual orientation. When Carlson wrote to eHarmony to complain, the company refused to change its policies.

Carlson then filed her lawsuit, claiming that by solely offering its services to heterosexual couples, the dating site was in violation of the state law barring discimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Such outright discrimination is hurtful and disappointing for a business open to the public in this day and age,” Carlson said in a statement.

Carlson’s lawsuit, which is currently being litigated in Los Angeles Superior Court, named Warren and Warren’s wife, Marylyn, the company’s former vice-president, as defendants.

The company denies the allegations.

 

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