The Pasadena online dating service has reached a settlement with the New Jersey AG's Office over a discrimination lawsuit (the company faces a similar claim in California). The upshot is that eHarmony will launch a same-sex matching service called Compatible Partners, which will be marketed in gay and lesbian media outlets. Users of eHarmony.com will not be matched with users of the new site. From the company's FAQ press release (via Law Blog):
--eHarmony, Inc. will start a global, online same-sex matching service called Compatible Partners by March 31, 2009. Users will be able to navigate to it from eHarmony.com.
--Registration on the Compatible Partners site will be free for the first 10,000 users registering within one year of its launch. After that time, subscription pricing for the new site will be equal to that for eHarmony.com.
--eHarmony, Inc. will market the new site in gay and lesbian media outlets.
--The Compatible Partners site will have a statement posted to inform members that its Compatibility Matching Systemô is solely based on research involving married heterosexual couples.
--The settlement makes clear that eHarmony, Inc. has not been found in violation of the law.
--eHarmony, Inc. will pay $50,000 to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office to cover administrative expenses and $5,000 to the original plaintiff who brought the case.
This one is likely to get lots of attention. Already among the comments on the Law Blog post:
-- I am all for equal rights and the rights of all people to express themselves however they want (as long as it doesnt get on me), but this is outrageous. The effect of this decision is that companies now have to create businesses where they have no expertise and could be forced to lose their money. eHarmony should look for better lawyers.
--Iím a gay liberal Dem and think this is just outrageous! If a private company wants to discriminate, it should be free to do so. Forcing companies like eharmony to provide services to gays only lends credence to the ridiculous arguments Christianists make that they can be sued for their religious beliefs. Eharmony is a private organization and should be able to provide services to whomever it chooses. Just outrageous.
--So does this mean that all of the gay dating sites must now cater to straight couples?
--Will psychologists with practices specializing in marriage counseling now be forced to counsel same-sex couples?