In a move which both thrills and irritates this writer, eHarmony has agreed to open a new matching service for those who are homosexual by March 31, 2009. By starting CompatiblePartners.net, a new site for those who would like to pursue a same-sex relationship, eHarmony has avoided being found in violation of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
This case went to the New Jersey Attorney General when a resident of the state filed a suit against eHarmony stating they were in violation of the state discrimination laws which state, "(LAD) 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, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability, perceived disability, and AIDS and HIV status. The LAD prohibits unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodation, credit and business contracts."
I'm completely thrilled because it's a step in the right direction for those who aren't straight, but it still doesn't completely feel like a win to me. While eHarmony will have to create a new website, pay $50,000 to the Attorney General's office for administrative fees and $5,000 to the person who first started this case, they get to do these things while still stating that they didn't break any laws.
It seems to me they were breaking a law and ought to say so and I'm frustrated that even though they are being penalized, they are still saying they were in the right. It's one thing for a website to state you must be older than the age of 13 to enter unless you have a parent's permission, it's a completely different story if a website essentially locks out those based on who they sleep with, the color of their skin or their religion.
eHarmony states they settled because "we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable. We look forward to moving beyond this legal dispute, which has been a burden for the company, and continuing to advance our business model of serving individuals by helping them find successful, long term relationships." It doesn't seem like much of an unfair charcterization to me and seems akin to a website not allowing Asians in simply based on the fact they are Asian. They didn't allow someone into their "club" based on sexuality and settled simply so they could avoid having to come out and say that.
I suppose even with my ill feelings towards the outcome, I still have to be glad that they finally came to their senses and started work on the new website, I just have to wonder that after eight long years of being the odd match-maker out, will anyone really be able to forgive and forget and help make this new community strong and worth joining.
I know I won't be one, but it might be due to people like me, who can't easily forget being shunned simply due to who I sleep with, that through the new CompatiblePartners.net the first 10,000 people who register on the site will receive free access for the first year after it's launch.