Equal Snipes

If eHarmony Must Allow Gay Dating, Should Gay Sites Have To Welcome Straights?


Sorry eHarmony: Just because you launched a same-sex match site doesn’t mean you’re out of legal trouble. Settling an anti-discrimination charge from New Jersey’s attorney general, Neil Clark Warren’s eHarmony yesterday unveiled Compatible Partners for gay men and women. But a class action suit making its way through California, where eHarmony is based, says the matchmaker hasn’t gone far enough — and their current two-site approach amounts to “separate but equal.” And violates law.

From a press release issued by Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky LLP:

“Having been sued for discrimination, eHarmony’s response is not to stop discriminating but to instead create another business. Nothing in the law or logic allows companies to operate a business that discriminates so long as they open up another one that does not, nor does California equal rights law indulge the practice of separate but equal,” says Joshua Konecky of Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky, LLP, who is representing plaintiffs in a class action suit against eHarmony.com.

The class action complaint also names eHarmony.com’s founder, president and CEO, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, as a defendant. Warren started eHarmony.com with the help of James Dobson of “Focus on the Family.” The suit alleges that defendants eHarmony.com and Warren have engaged in unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation. The lawsuit also charges that the Web site’s policy violates the California Unruh Civil Rights Act. A trial is scheduled in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Oct. 20, 2009.

“To stop discriminating and comply with the law, the defendants must allow people seeking a same-sex relationship to access all the services and features of eHarmony.com, while on eHarmony.com, not a separate site,” added Jeremy Pasternak of The Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak, who is also representing the plaintiffs.

In addition to injunctive relief, the court certified the plaintiffs’ claims for damages on behalf of all gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals who have attempted to use eHarmony.com at any time from May 31, 2004 through March 1, 2009. In the class certification order, the court noted that such individuals would not need to demonstrate actual injury to obtain damages, but just that they visited eHarmony.com to seek a same-sex match and were unable to do so.


Ahem. Let’s hold on a second here. Yesterday when we reported the launch of Compatible Partners, some accused us of “promoting a bigoted company.” This, when the only reason eHarmony launched this site is because gays were furious over their opposite-sex only approach to online dating.

Meanwhile, the California class action lawsuit argues eHarmony must provide both opposite- and same-sex dating on its flagship site. It’s a reasonable demand — in theory.

Until you think about Gay.com: Should that site be ordered by a court to offer opposite-sex dating right on Gay.com?

Should Manhunt.net and adam4adam be told by a judge they must appeal to straight couples too?

Connexion.org is bills itself as “Gay and Lesbian Social Networking, Dating, Chat and News.” Where is the class action lawsuit from heterosexuals demanding it set up, right on the homepage, another section for heterosexual social networking, dating, and news?

GKiss is the “first and largest dating site solely dedicated to gay males seeking quality, long-term relationships!” Sister site LDate.com will only “cater to serious lesbian singles searching for committed or lifetime partners.” Are these sites violating anti-discrimination laws because they discriminate based on sexual orientation? BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEY DO.

eHarmony caved to the outcry of gays wanting them to open their service to our community. But unless we’re willing to tell dating sites for our own kind that they must, under threat of litigation, be forced to open themselves up to straight men and women, the matter might be better left untouched.

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  • J

    These are all absurd lawsuits. A straight website is not like a straight hotel or a straight (public) school, where a resource that by virtue of its exclusion denies the ability of others to participate in a similar thing…. a straight dating website in no way prohibits gays from dating on any other website; all you have to do is type in a different web address. The idea that a private company does not have the right to target a specific audience when that specification comes at no actual cost of the non-targeted group is idiocy, simple as that. We want equal protection under the law, do we not? That requires equal applicability of the law, and if these things are allowed to stand then I -hope- someone sues Manhunt and adam4adam.

    There are principles that we should fight for, and there are cheap, reactionary, unintelligent ‘wins’ that can be taken. This sort of thing gives perfect ammunition to people who claim we want ‘special’ rights, and that we’re out to force people to do things they do not want to. It is no small jump from this to wanting to break up churches that don’t perform gay marriage ceremonies… and if there is support from the gay community for the former, there’s no reason to think that there won’t be for the latter… which is really upsetting, not to mention disappointing.

  • BILL

    This is nonsense. There are plenty of “straight men” on Manhunt!

  • Lydon

    This whole thing is just ridiculous. Like J said, there’s a significant difference between a website that caters to a specific demographic and a public service that should cater to all. This isn’t a matter of discrimination or civil rights, this is the simple case of an online business that adheres to the “tribe” market paradigm. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the way current markets work: we’ve evolved from an economy of mass production to one of mass customization.

    Like there aren’t thousands of gay dating sites out there! I mean, come on!! Pick your fights people.

  • burton21

    @J: Thank you, I feel the exact same way. I don’t think a private, Christian organization should have to cater to anyone they don’t want to (and why on earth do gay people want to be a part of this idiocy?) They have that right.

  • Nickadoo

    I’d thought about this issue before, when the lawsuit against eHarmony first began. As far as I know, gay.com has never discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. Profile options of gay, straight, bi, and “questioning” have always been available, as well as “what are you looking for: men, women, mtf, ftm.” I may be wrong, I haven’t visited gay.com in ages.

    I’m unsure if the main issue with eHarmony is that they’re a dating site that discriminates, or that they offer exclusive goods and services that are unavailable at other dating sites (specifically that “scientifically proven personality match test” bullshit they advertise). eHarmony could’ve likely saved themselves a headache by licensing this technology out to a third party.

  • Nickadoo

    It should be added that Manhunt has already faced its share of accusations of discrimination from the transgendered community.

  • RM

    I am of the opinion that our lawyers ought to be suing over things like prop 8, workplace discrimination, and the like. eHarmony may be in violation of the spirit and letter of the law, but in no way does this amount to a real hardship when the marketplace provides us with so many alternatives.

    By the way, I think that none of those websites actually prevent straight people from joining, so the comparison to eHarmony isn’t valid.

  • Lorna Darden

    To each it’s own. This is not the most important thing in the world to be worried about.

  • GayIsTheWay

    No. Gay men should have their own dating sites. Same for lesbians and hateosexuals.

  • Greg Ever

    If it’s ok to cater only to a specific demographic like gay people, why couldn’t eHarmony only cater to the demographic of straight people? Regardless of the fact that they make up the majority of people, it’s still a valid demographic group.

  • shivadog

    Is it just me or is “compatible partners” the least romantic name for a dating site ever. I kind of feel like it was meant to be insulting. I also think it was kind of stupid to force them to do this, would you trust a religious nut homophobe to find you a man? And why would any self-respecting gay want to give these people money?

  • Ali

    This is all really dumb.

    eHarmony shouldn’t have been sued in the first place… it’s their business, let them do what they want.

    Second, since they lost, they shouldn’t have created a separate site for gays. Separate but equal violates the (already stupid) court decision.

    I suppose there are people with a legit grief about eHarmony dividing the gay and straight sites: bisexuals. To use eHarmony we’d have to register for both sites. Although I won’t be using eHarmony anyway. So… whatever?

  • jaybee

    Since when was Manhunt a “dating” site? Unless, of course, you consider wordlessly pig-fucking a guy who leaves the front door ajar “dating.” Not sure a lot of straights would find too many walks on the beach or sunsets by trolling Manhunt…

  • Cee

    I’m not reading all that. I will just respond to the title question of the article. No, gay sites should not have to welcome straight people. Nothing against straight people, but straight people are not fighting for equality based on their sexual preference as gay people are. Straight people have their websites, PLENTY of them.

  • Kevzin

    I run a game site for Gaymers and my site is open to all as for eHarmony I think they to should be open to all people and so should all of the gay sites

  • Drew

    Historically black colleges and universities are an integral part of America’s higher education system, but it is illegal to operate whites-only institutions. Mainstream institutions must accommodate minorities, but minorities still need a safe venue separate from the mainstream.

  • getreal

    @Drew: Actually as someone who attended Howard University that is not entirely correct there were several non-black students on the same floor as me in the dorm on minority scholarships. I read a statistic that 8.5% of students who attend HBC (Historically black colleges) are non-black students on scholarship. White,hispanic,asian,native-americans people are eligible for minority scholarships at black schools as they should be.I think the dating site issue is a different one though it is not discrimination for a gay dating site to not feature straight people. It’s a gay dating site.

  • Lee

    If eHarmony wants to discriminate against gays, why would we want to give them our business?

  • getreal

    @Lee: CO-SIGN!!

  • jake

    sure whatever. gay.com should be for everyone. there shouldn’t be any sites that are strictly for one sexual orientation. users should decide if they want to sign up or not.

  • jake

    if there is going to be a site that doesn’t want gay people then it should be called eDisharmony.com

  • JamesR

    E-Harmony is a steaming pile of crap. They tried to be several contradictory things at once, then rolled over and are none of them. They did not “loose” as Ali stated above. they SETTLED. They affirmed the premise and reach of that New Jersey law. I can’t imagine who is happy with this on every side. IF they really were what they started out being, a “Christian” site, they would have a good case. But no – they claim they’re not, even though we know they are, just so they can get more money off the secular / unaffiliated market. Even as a private business, I think they would have been able to make a good case and easily won in this conservative judicial climate. I WOULD HAVE BEEN GLAD IF THEY DID.

    That law is poorly written, pre-internet / pre-internet consciousness, it has now been made more powerful – more than it’s original intent for sure – and will bite many people and businesses in the ass before it is properly amended. Just because we may want to punish some asshole by prosecuting them / persecuting them legally usually does not mean it’s a wise and good thing to do. I understand the motivation – as the condescending offensive crap from them is provocative – but freedom to associate, and freedom of speech and freedom of religion is NOT FOR THE ONES WE LIKE. It’s specifically for the crap we don’t like. (Do the math.) Now yahoos can sue Manhunt and gay.com etc (in New Jersey.) Maybe one of them will have the stones to actually go all the way through court.

    They settled so their proprietary dartboard of compatibility would have been laid bare to the opposition and perhaps the public, and they were afraid. I can’t imagine “Christians,” such as they had purported to be, feeling not-offended by this, I am offended by this. AND, again as Ali pointed out, there may now be a case for bisexuals to sue again. They are selecting matches form members both gay and straight who have no self respect now.

  • David Anger

    Love does not know sexuality. Look at me.

  • Robguy

    While I think most types of public groups should be open to anyone that wants to take part in what they offer. I’ve seen (often with some confusion) plenty of men identifying as straight on gay websites. Ethnic restaurants are open to anyone that wants to eat there, but it would be silly to demand they offer food from all ethnicities.

  • JamesR

    @Robguy: The statute and now precedent of this case is that, at least in New Jersey, the ENTIRE INTERNET is subject to their interpretation of local state law. As if they were a restaurant IN NJ that discriminated. I like your analogy better, about specialty food. Either way nobody is helped by e-harmony rolling over like the bitch they are.

  • petted

    The focus on the family connection makes eharmony even more vile – does anyone really think ‘focus’ approved couples matching is a good idea?

  • Alec

    Correct me if I am wrong, but is there anything that prohibits heterosexuals from signing up on gay.com or manhunt or any of the other sites? I mean, the premise is a bit silly if there’s no restriction on who participates. Doesn’t gay.com even have an orientation section that allows you to select “straight”?

    I’m not addressing the merits of the AG’s complait in the eharmony case, I just think the issues are sufficiently different that the comparison is unwarranted.

  • jason

    Gays can’t have it both ways. You can’t cry foul when mainstream dating sites exclude gays if you, yourselves, exclude straights from your own sites. You can’t elect to remain segregated when it suits you and demand integration when it doesn’t. Be consistent, otherwise you risk losing credibility.

  • Alec

    @jason: What websites exclude heterosexuals?

    “Having it both ways,” by the way, would be, say, arguing for nondiscrimination laws that only protected people on the basis of “real or perceived homosexuality or bisexuality.” Since the laws pressed by gay rights activists protect people on the basis of sexual orientation, straights are covered as well.

  • Cam

    Gay.com does allow you designate yourself as “Striaght”

  • Alec

    @Cam: Well there you go. No argument that gay.com is discriminatory.

  • Attmay

    @Drew: Historically black colleges do not discriminate against nonblack students. I have known personally a white graduate and someone who knew a white ex-professor of North Carolina Central University.
    @Cee: Agreed. The haterosexuals have too many venues already because there are so freakin’ many of them.

  • ahpace24

    The issue here I think we are all missing here is not that the product or service itself is offensive to another group of people but that access is physically and literally denied to the product or service. Like a Mens clothing store not allowing women to buy their products or a Hair salon not admitting men. Most states have laws that state if your in business the product or service has to be available to all and although there are distinctions between social networking sites and dating sites where you either pay to search and post classifieds or you pay to find an actual date match respectfully, eharmony is the only company I know of that denies access to all.
    If you are a public company no matter what demographic you are targeting your product or service to,there should be equal access to all.
    I personally don’t find a hetero specific dating website offensive but denying me access is another story.

  • cruiser

    First of all one has to ask, why would any one want to be involved with an organization that blatantly excludes gay people and secondly is run by a tool like Neil Clark Warren who just happens to be frineds with James Dobson of FOF(talk about discriminatory)FOF has come right out and said they do not like gay people of any type, in fact they have over the years sponsered or at the very least endorsed anti gay legislation(think Fred Phelps). Also this whole lawsuit business is nothing more than cannon fodder for those creton who think that all gay people are an abomination, frraks of nature, child molesters, you pick it it has been said. The only thing these lawsuits are going to do is give these hate groups MORE ammunition when election times roll around. Personally I have no desire to check out their “new” website, as I think it merely a “token” gesture meant to placate those who filed the suit.


    The problem (to me, anyway) is that there are *too many* sites. The more there are, the better the chance that your best matches are on a different site. Which may not matter in a major city, but out here there are so few to begin with…

  • TANK

    Should restaurants be FORCED to serve people of color who they would otherwise turn away? Sure. I’m so sick of this vacuous libertarians and their horrendous understanding of the constitution.


  • Sick of this crap

    @RM: For all of you that claim there are no gay sites that don’t allow heterosexuals from signing up…here’s one for you: http://gaydate4u.com/ (and this was on the first page after doing a basic Google search for gay dating sites). I’m sure there’s many more like this. This particular site only has an option to choose “female looking for female” or “male looking for mail” period. No other option is available. Shall I go file a lawsuit claiming discrimination against me as a heterosexual on the grounds that I can’t use this particular website?? Thanks to the courts and Mr. Eric McKinley, a precedence has now been set that would allow me to make thousands from a lawsuit filed against this company. Hmmmm, note to self….look into filing lawsuit against various “gay only” dating sites on Monday. I could really use the money. Stuff that feather in your cap.

  • Jamie

    Straight guys on gay dating sites? That’s hot.

  • TANK

    I see straight guys on gay dating sites all of the time…”straight,” of course…ha ha ha,”girlfriend may want to join”…aaaand no. Anyway, that reasoning is stupid, for a hookup site isn’t a dating site; straight space is ubiquitous creating a market demand for gay space. Of course you could sue on the premise of reverse discrimination, and being unfairly kept from posting photos of yourself on manhunt…

  • Luis Montalvo

    The 5 Most Unintentionally Gay Horror Movies:

    At some point, possibly in the 80s, Hollywood decided that a good horror movie needed to be built on a strong foundation of homoerotic subtext. We’re not saying it’s a bad thing, this is 2009, after all.

    What we are saying is that their strenuous efforts to both cram in as much homoeroticism as possible, while avoiding actual gay characters or storylines, is the stuff unintentional comedy is made of. For example…

    #5.The Lost Boys (1987)

    A handsome young man is targeted by vampires. Everyone is dressed like members of WHAM!

    After moving to the flamboyant new town of Santa Carla, Michael falls in with a crowd of bad dudes after being attracted by the gang’s sole female member, Star. Strangely, none of the fellas in the gang seems to be showing any interest in her, forcing Michael to conclude that they’re all in serious relationships with other female vampires.

    Michael follows Star back to the vampires’ lair, where the leader of the pack, David, tricks Michael into swallowing some of his bodily fluids. Or maybe it’s not a trick, and Michael is just so impressed at having been invited over to Jack Bauer’s house that he does it voluntarily.

    Pretty soon, Star is nowhere to be seen, and Michael demonstrates his loyalty to vampire-Jack Bauer by jumping off a bridge. He then lets his family know about his new lifestyle by coming home sporting the international sign of vampire-gang membership: a single ear piercing. Even his younger brother, Sam, who prides himself on his flamboyant “young Elton John” wardrobe, seems shocked by this.

    Later, there’s a rushed sex scene with Star which is obviously added to draw attention away from the flaming sexual tension between Michael and pale-Jack Bauer. However, it’s not enough to distract us from the moment that propelled this movie onto the list. A moment that makes the gleaming man with his saxophone and studded codpiece seem as hetero as Brett Favre.

    The moment to which we refer comes when Sam opens his not-at-all-metaphorical closet, resulting in a shot which has led to years of speculation by experts.

    That’s Rob Lowe, folks.

    Best Quote:

    “My blood is in your veins!”
    Wait, Are You Sure This is “Unintentional”?

    Look, it was a different time. And that different time was the 80s.

    It was an era of men with waxed chests, in towels. Of moussed hair and pastel shirts. The whole world was flamboyant and nobody felt threatened by it. The Lost Boys seems to have been filmed purely as a time capsule for the era that gave us Top Gun. Show the film to an amnesiac or somebody born in 1991, and they’ll say “Oh, that’s what you mean by ‘ambient gay.'”

    So what if Corey had Rob Lowe in his closet. Lowe starred in St. Elmo’s Fire, director Joel Schumacher’s last film before he directed The Lost Boys. The picture on Sam’s closet was probably more a jokey director shout-out than anything else.

    On the other hand, Schumacher is openly gay and was responsible for putting the nipples and enormous dong on the batsuit.

    Okay so maybe it was a little bit intentional.

    #4.The Covenant (2006)


    Caleb is the leader of a gang of “undercover” male witches who spend a lot of time showering together. He is obsessively targeted by a mysterious stranger, Chase, the new kid at their exclusive private school.

    We don’t want to read too much into the fact that the school’s female students are featured mostly as blurry, indistinct figures in the background. Why read anything at all when we have an all-male naked locker room fight scene to watch?

    “I’m gonna cast a magic spell. A magic ass spell. On your ass.”

    Yes, it’s the classic story of male friendship: One man defends another in a naked brawl, sparked when one of the men is called gay. Our memory is a little hazy, but we’re fairly certain that’s how Mel Gibson met Danny Glover in the first Lethal Weapon.

    After their bond if forged through butt-naked combat, Chase and Caleb hit some bars together and engage in extended male swimming competitions while wearing tiny, tiny shorts. Their relationship reaches its climax when Caleb discovers the secret that Chase hides away from the world in the clos … cupboard deep within his soul. We’re of course talking about the fact that Chase is also an undercover witch.

    Chase becomes desperate to consume Caleb’s magic, when he learns that Caleb has a special magic that will only fully develop once he turns 18. Chase stalks him, threatens his friends and eventually holds him down and kisses him.

    “This is how we steal magic, right?”

    This brings us to the final conflict, and the point at which the film pretty much whips the audience in the face with the homoerotic symbolism: In the climactic scene, the two men hurl magic translucent white globs of power at each other as Chase begs for Caleb’s consent.

    Best Line:

    “How about I make you my wi-atch?”
    Wait, Are You Sure This is “Unintentional”?

    “Be careful, my magic is very sticky and if it gets in your hair, you’ll never get it out.”

    In this case, at least, all of the homoerotic subtext lurking just beneath the surface (and sometimes prominently above it) seems to be a strange, misguided attempt to appeal to the young women who this film was plainly aimed at. The filmmakers must have spent some time in some chat rooms, and decided that homoerotic fanservice is all that is needed to sell tickets in these modern times.

    To be fair, the obligatory girl-girl make-out scenes in modern slasher flicks demonstrates that producers don’t have a much higher opinion of male horror fans.

    #3.The Forsaken (2001)


    Young man befriends vampire, ignores attractive woman for 90 minutes.

    Don’t let the scantily-clad female on the cover fool you into renting this movie for your men’s beach volleyball after party. Actress Izabella Miko appears in approximately 10 minutes of footage, and the rest is devoted to a lengthy bromance between Sean and half-vampire Nick. The naked women, gratuitous violence and vampire car chases thrown in throughout the film just make the homoeroticism stand out more, the same way that Al Pacino’s presence in The Devil’s Advocate made Keanu Reeves look even dumber.

    The plot kicks off when Sean is asked to transport a car cross country, and given a specific no-hitchhiker rule by his employer. And he’s able to follow it until a young blond hitcher, named Nick, catches his eye and asks, “Use some company?” Oh, we know the answer to that one.

    Sean keeps Nick around even as he gets him fined by the cops, steals his food and money and randomly strips an unconscious girl naked in his hotel room. Unfortunately, this loyalty doesn’t pay off because both the girl and Nick turn out to be vampires, and Sean gets his ass bitten (not literally).

    Nick then explains that Sean has been infected with a blood disorder that can only be slowed with a cocktail of drugs.

    “Also you have to let me stick my finger in your mouth. To cure your blood disorder, you see.”

    The two young men team up to attract and kill the head vampire, a Frenchman who also seems to have a thing for Sean. The head vampire, though, is no match for the most powerful force in the universe: white hot, masculine love. The film ends as the two men stare meaningfully into each other’s eyes, and ride off into the sunset together.

    Best Quote:

    “I need all the muscle I can get!”

    Wait, Are You Sure This is “Unintentional”?

    It hardly seems possible; after all, the subtext is so obvious the guy who played Sean was asked about it (before this film, he was best known for playing an openly gay man on Dawson’s Creek).

    This certainly doesn’t look like a vampire movie.

    But, he did deny it. So, hell, maybe it was just a case where the chemistry of the two male actors combined to create a flash of spontaneous homoerotic combustion. It happens. If you’ve ever hung around a college fraternity, you know what we’re talking about.

  • Randy R.

    Hey I dont care whos gay or not. If they want to date other guys then I don’t really care. That’s their thing, not mine.

  • steelcitychick

    I’ve always supported the LGBT community. But the lawsuit against eHarmony for not providing service for the LGBT community is just ridicules. It’s like going to a Porsche dealership looking for Harley Davidson, and then when you find that they don’t sell Harley’s then you want to take them to court because they are not catering to what you want. Just like sHarmony the Porsche dealership is catering to one specific group of consumers. Those who want to buy a freakin Porsche! Just like Harley Davidson’s target people who want motorcycles! These lawsuits are a waste of time and tax dollars, because believe me we are paying for these frivolous suites!!

  • Jacob

    I think that eHarmony should allow gays. Well obviously there are dating websites geared strictly towards gays, and there is a reason for that. Discrimination. And if a website doesn’t want to allow a certain group, then the fault lies with it’s founders. But these websites that are for gays state that that they are geared toward gays, not exclusively for gays, just aimed. And I don’t recall eHarmony ever stating it is a strictly straight website or service. Seeing as how they don’t, if a gay person were to get denied regristation, there could be problems because it does not claim to be exclusive. Do you understand the point I am trying to make?

  • NRG Boys

    Nrg boys” a social networking site for gays is all set to make it’s mark in United Kingdom. This site will allow users to express oneself with a avatar virtually.
    Gays, Bi and Curious lads can upload their Profile, photos, videos, Blogs, news on their home page. Site will have two types of members: premium members and free members. A free member may any time upgrade his account to a premium member. Members will be allowed to communicate with each other through Messages . The members would be able to buy clothes, mobiles etc online.

  • Ewusi Ebenezer

    i want a gay site so that i can chat here

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