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Monday, November 24, 2008

Lawsuit Forces eHarmony to Offer Gay & Lesbian Dating Services

Last Wednesday Fox News reported that Internet dating site eHarmony had settled a discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey, and will begin accepting personal ads from gay and lesbian singles for the first time.

A New Jersey resident, Eric McKinley, sued the eight-year-old company in 2005 after it rejected his personal ad because he was gay. The state of New Jersey took up the case last year, and the Attorney General's office found that eHarmony had violated the state's anti-discrimination laws.

eHarmony, which was absolved by a court of any wrongdoing, has until March 31st of 2009 to launch the new gay dating site. They also agreed to ensure that same-sex users will be matched using the same technology used for its heterosexual clients and will post photographs of same-sex couples in the "Diversity" section of their web site and in advertising materials. The settlement also stated that eHarmony pay $50,000 to the state and $5,000 to Eric McKinley, the man who originally brought the suit against the company.

eHarmony plans to launch the new site called "Compatible Partners," and offer 10,000 free six-month subscriptions to interested parties. "We believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business," eHarmony said in a statement. "We ultimately decided it was best to settle with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable."

The New Jersey settlement is not the only lawsuit filed against eHarmony for failing to accommodate sex-same users.

Linda Carlson, a California resident, sued the online dating service in May of 2007, alleging that it discriminated against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Carlson said she tried to use the web site 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 policy.

The lawsuit claimed that by solely offering to find a compatible match for men seeking women or women seeking men, the company was violating state law barring discrimination 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.

The lawsuit, which is being litigated in Los Angeles Superior Court, named Inc., Warren and Warren's wife, Marylyn, the company's former vice president, as defendants. It seeks class-action status, a jury trial and unspecified damages.

"We believe that this case is now essentially moot, and we're confident that we will prove that in court," Johnson said in a statement provided to "Now that we're entering the same-sex matching market, we fail to see what the Carlson plaintiffs could achieve through further litigation."

The Associated Press
Fox News

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