New Jersey resident Eric McKinley, 46, a self-described homosexual, decided to sign up for the California-based eHarmony.com online dating service in 2005. He says he couldn’t get past the first screen, “because the pull-down menus had categories only for a man seeking a woman or a woman seeking a man.”
So naturally the aggrieved McKinley ignored the plethora of “gay” on-line dating Web sites and filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (NJDCR).
The claim makes as much legal sense as if McKinley had sued Victoria’s Secret because it doesn’t sell jockstraps. But after three years of litigation, the Christian-owned dating service caved, announcing on Nov. 20 that it would establish a same-sex dating service early next year. In the face of intimidation litigation, eHarmony chose to settle, rather than defend its rights under the U.S. Constitution or cease doing business in New Jersey.
The surrender followed a finding by the NJDCR of probable cause to believe that McKinley was unlawfully discriminated against because eHarmony didn’t provide same-sex matches. If McKinley’s intimidation litigation continues its trajectory, New Jersey may have the first Victor/Victoria’s Secret.
It wasn’t that eHarmony refused to do business with McKinley because of his homosexual “orientation.” eHarmony founded its business model on traditional man-woman marriage as explained on its Web site:
Based on his 35 years of marriage counseling and studies of thousands of married couples, eHarmony founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren exhaustively researched what makes marriages succeed and fail. His findings? Chemistry is not enough. Almost all marriages start out with good chemistry, yet 3 out of 4 couples end up unhappy or divorced.
Bear in mind that NJDCR never ruled on the actual merits of McKinley’s claim, but here’s the deal: In addition to paying New Jersey $50,000 and McKinley $5,000, eHarmony will provide same-sex relationship matching services called “Compatible Partners” by March 31, 2009, and give the first 10,000 same-sex registrants a free six-month subscription.