NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–eHarmony, the company that built much of its early success by advertising in Christian media, has launched a parallel matchmaking website for homosexuals, billing it as service that helps foster “serious relationships for the gay and lesbian community.”
The CompatiblePartners.net website went live in recent days, several months after eHarmony and the New Jersey attorney general’s office announced a settlement to an investigation that began nearly four years earlier when a homosexual man filed a complaint alleging that eHarmony — which at the time didn’t match same-sex couples — was in violation of state law. New Jersey has an anti-discrimination law covering “sexual orientation.”
As part of the November settlement, eHarmony agreed to launch the website, advertise it in homosexual media and allow the first 10,000 users to register for free. The new website features pictures of men holding hands and women hugging and claims to be a “site for singles seeking a long-term, same-sex relationship.” But research shows such relationships, particularly ones involving men, are short-lived and rarely monogamous.
The settlement came as a shock to quite a few pro-family leaders who felt that while the investigation was another example of religious freedom under fire, eHarmony nevertheless should have put up a legal fight. The Boy Scouts famously won a lawsuit in New Jersey on a related matter that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. That suit, decided in 2000, also pertained to New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law and alleged that under the law the Boy Scouts couldn’t prohibit homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.
e-Harmony’s founder, psychologist Neil Clark Warren, has been the public face for the company in numerous TV commercials and was featured on Focus on the Family’s radio programs during eHarmony’s first few years.
“Sadly, by failing to aggressively defend their own Biblical beliefs and American freedoms,” Americans for Truth President Peter LaBarbera wrote, “Mr. Warren and his eHarmony executives (and lawyers) made it that much easier [for homosexual leaders] to go after ours.”
As part of the settlement, eHarmony said it did not violate the law but felt the need to settle the case. In a statement its attorney, Ted Olson, said, “[W]e ultimately decided it was best to settle this case with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable.”
Jim Campbell, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberty legal organization, told Baptist Press the case underscores the danger that anti-discrimination laws can pose to religious freedoms. Campbell, though, said eHarmony should have put up a tougher fight.
“Unfortunately, in this case, eHarmony surrendered to their demands,” he told BP last year. “We feel they could have had a valid argument and could have taken a stand against this.”
CompatiblePartners.net includes a statement saying that e-Harmony’s “patented Compatibility Matching System was developed on the basis of research involving married heterosexual couples” and that the company “has not conducted similar research on same-sex relationships.”
A three-year study by University of Chicago researchers released in 2004 showed that 42.9 percent of homosexual men in Chicago’s Shoreland area had had more than 60 sexual partners, while an additional 18.4 percent had between 31 and 60 partners. All total, 61.3 percent of the area’s homosexual men had more than 30 partners, and 87.8 percent had more than 15, the research found.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.