Disharmony, the New Tolerance

Posted: Jun 07, 2007 12:01 AM
Disharmony, the New Tolerance

Last week, a lesbian filed suit against because the online dating service does not fix up homosexual couples.

It is ugly to watch how a group that has been asking straight Americans for tolerance and understanding can turn on a dime, as members seek to punish and shut down those with heterodox opinions.

In the Bay Area, it is no secret. Here, tolerance is a one-way street. Equal rights for some mean fewer rights for others.

In February, after the breakup of a 10-year relationship, San Mateo County resident Linda Carlson signed on to eHarmony.

As her San Francisco attorney Jeremy Pasternak told me, Carlson was not trolling for a lawsuit, but "legitimately looking for love." When Carlson saw that she could only sign on as "a man seeking a woman" or "a woman seeking a man," she contacted the company in the hope that eHarmony would add a new category: a woman seeking a woman.

Having been rejected, Carlson could have decided to go to a dating site that accommodates lesbians. That would have been the tolerant thing to do.

Instead, she filed a lawsuit that charges that eHarmony violates California law by not serving individuals "based solely on their sexual orientation."

Carlson's suit, it should be noted, follows a 2006 suit filed by a lawyer because eHarmony, which boasts that an average of 90 eHarmony members marry each day, rejected him because he was married. But separated.

Married and litigious -- what a catch, girls.

Or as a company spokesman noted, "To be criticized for ensuring that we're doing the best job possible is most hurtful to our members."

When I asked why Carlson didn't simply go to another dating service, Pasternak evoked the image of Rosa Parks, noting that "nearly every step in civil rights law, you could have said the same thing."

In this case, Pasternak argued, eHarmony's "matchmaking services" make it different than other services.

He almost sounded like an ad as he claimed that other services do not compare to eHarmony, because, "There is a big difference between the sites that allow the customers to self-select who they are looking for" and a site that makes the decision "to exclude a minority group." But the answer isn't to make eHarmony be what it is not, but to let others create something like eHarmony for gays and lesbians.

Mark Brooks, spokesman for the gay online matchmaking service, said of eHarmony: "I think they're having a bit of an unfair time of it. I think it's their right to have a niche focus, but they've not quite said the right thing, and their underlying tone has riled people up."

Some believe eHarmony is a target because founder Neil Warren is proud of his Christian faith. Such is the new McCarthyism.

And it doesn't matter that eHarmony stresses that it serves singles of many (and of no) religious persuasions. To the extent that critics mention Warren's faith, they are confirming the suspicion among social conservatives that more rights for gays mean fewer rights for the devout.

I should note that Pasternak did not mention Warren's religion. Even still, there is no getting around the selective intolerance of a lawsuit that targets a heterosexual dating service, while gay and other niche dating services abound.

The perfect match for this lawsuit might be Warren Olson, the editor of -- or if you will, he quipped, ""

Olson noted that Carlson has "a much better chance with existing dating services." But she is suing, Olson noted, because diversity and tolerance have come to mean, "It's not just that you get the choices you want, but also choices you don't approve of have to be taken away."

And, "Diversity in theory is the enemy of diversity in practice."

The very term harmony evokes the sound of differing chords coexisting and making interesting music.

As for Carlson's lawsuit, it could result in a world where all dating services must serve the same people.

It's one note.