Coming soon to EHarmony -- Adam and Steve.
The Pasadena-based dating website, heavily promoted by Christian evangelical leaders when it was founded, has agreed in a civil rights settlement to give up its heterosexuals-only policy and offer same-sex matches.
EHarmony was started by psychologist Neil Clark Warren, who is known for his mild-mannered television and radio advertisements. It must not only implement the new policy by March 31 but also give the first 10,000 same-sex registrants a free six-month subscription.
"That was one of the things I asked for," said Eric McKinley, 46, who complained to New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights after being turned down for a subscription in 2005.
This ruling will likely open up a pandora's box not only for dating sites, but for businesses everywhere that we may all regret soon. First of all, most dating sites are inherently discriminatory. J Date is a site exclusively for Jewish people. Catholic Match is the equivalent for Catholics. There are even dating sites that are exclusively for wealthy folks. All of these carry the same sort of an inherent bias that E Harmony was sued for. In business, we call this finding a niche. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a business trying to identify a niche and targeting their business to serve that niche. Whether its providing dating services for Jews, Catholics, or the wealthy. Now, the very niche marketing that each of these sites is using can come under the scrutiny of suit. If a gay person can sue E Harmony for discrimination, what's to stop anyone from suing any site that tailors only to a certain group.
The potential consequences of this can go even beyond dating sites. What's to stop a skinny person from claiming discrimination from a Tall and Fat outlet, and vice versa? The potential consequences of this ruling is that anyone that feels that any business that didn't tailor to their need can file for discrimination. The potential consequences are endless.
E Harmony didn't provide services for gay folks, and there are plenty of dating sites exclusively for gays. Will straight people now sue those sites for discrimination? The capitulation of E Harmony is stunning and it is dangerous, and its effects will soon reverberate in all sorts of places. The term unintended consequences couldn't be more appropriate here.