National

eHarmony.com, EHarmony matchmaking service, eHarmony for homosexuals
eharmony.com

eHarmony to Offer Same-Sex Matchmaking

November 21, 2008 01:20 PM
by Isabel Cowles
eHarmony.com has settled a dispute with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division on Civil Rights by agreeing to develop a gay dating site.

eHarmony For All

facebook
By next spring, the creators of eHarmony.com will offer an online dating site exclusively for same-sex couples.

The site will be called “Compatible Partners” and will be available by March 31, 2009. eHarmony is developing the site in response to allegations that the company violated New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

The case was brought against eHarmony in 2005 by a New Jersey resident who tried to find a same-sex match using the service. The resident filed a formal complaint with the state that alleged that eHarmony violated his rights under the LAD, which makes it “unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation.”

Although eHarmony was not found in violation of the law, it determined after a three-year litigation period that creating the service would be beneficial to the company.

eHarmony legal counsel Theodore B. Olson explained that, “Even though we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle this case with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable.”

In a press release available through The Wall Street Journal, eHarmony explains that the same-sex dating site is now a priority for the company: “We have made the commitment to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office that we will put our business effort behind the new site to make it successful.”

eHarmony notes, however, that same-sex matchups on the site will be based on years of research that draw solely from married couples of the opposite sex.

Background: A bit of eHarmony history

eHarmony’s matchmaking has typically catered to Christian users. Site founder Neil Clark Warren is an evangelical who is deeply involved with the conservative Christian community. He has used his background in psychology and couples’ therapy to develop the matchmaking algorithms used on the site.

When asked on NPR’s “Fresh Air” program in Aug. 2005 why eHarmony does not cater to the gay community, Warren explained, “I’ve never had a same-sex couple in therapy. I don’t know exactly what the dynamics are there. We’ve done a deep amount of research on about 5,000 married people, but never on people who are same sex. We don’t know how to do that. We think the principles probably are different, so we’ve never chosen to do it.” 

Although eHarmony caters to 13 million users, nearly a million have been rejected by the service. Chemistry.com, a rival online dating service, used eHarmony’s selective reputation as the basis for an ad campaign last year that purported to feature failed eHarmony applicants.

eHarmony objected to the ads and called for their withdrawal, stating that by not explaining the basis for those rejections, Chemistry.com made eHarmony potentially seem racially or ethnically prejudiced. In reality, eHarmony contested, 30 percent of the site’s rejects are married, which automatically bars them from using the service. Those suffering from depression and people under 60 who have been married more than twice are also ineligible.

Related Topic: Online matchmaking methods draw controversy

eHarmony and Chemistry.com pair couples by using algorithms based on psychological and anthropological research. Both companies have been criticized for not being more transparent with their research and withholding publication of their work for peer review.
facebook

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines