The eHarmony Shakedown
November 21, 2008 - 5:34 AM<br />
New Jersey plaintiff Eric McKinley can now crown himself the new Rosa Parks—heroically breaking down inhumane barriers to Internet matchmaking by forcing a law-abiding private company to provide services it was never created to provide. “Men seeking men” has now been enshrined with “I have a dream” as a civil rights rallying cry of the 21st century. Bully for you, Mr. McKinley. You bully.
Neil Warren, eHarmony’s founder, is a gentle, grandfatherly businessman who launched his popular dating site to support heterosexual marriage. A “Focus on the Family” author with a divinity degree, Warren encourages healthy, lasting unions between men and women of all faiths, mixed faiths or no faith at all.
Don’t like what eHarmony sells? Go somewhere else. There are thousands upon thousands of dating sites on the Internet that cater to gays, lesbians, Jews, Muslims, Trekkies, runners, you name it.
No matter. In the name of tolerance, McKinley refused to tolerate eHarmony’s right to operate a lawful business that didn’t give him what he wanted. He filed a discrimination complaint against eHarmony with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights in 2005.
To be clear: eHarmony never, ever refused to do business with anyone. The company broke no laws. Their great “sin” was not providing a politically correct service that a publicity-seeking gay plaintiff demanded they provide.
For three years, the company battled McKinley’s legal shakedown artists—and staved off other opportunists as well. The dating site had been previously sued by a lesbian looking to force the company to match her up with another woman, and by a married man who ridiculously sought to force the company to find him prospects for an adulterous relationship.
This case is akin to a meat-eater suing a vegetarian restaurant for not offering him a rib-eye, or a female patient suing a vasectomy doctor for not providing her hysterectomy services. But rather than defend the persecuted business, the New Jersey attorney general intervened on behalf of the gay plaintiff and wrangled an agreement out of eHarmony to change its entire business model.
The company agreed not only to offer same-sex dating services on a new site, but also to offer six-month subscriptions for free to 10,000 gay users, pay McKinley $5,000 and fork over $50,000 to New Jersey’s Civil Rights division “to cover investigation-related administrative costs.” Oh, and that’s not all. Yield, yield to the grievance-mongers:
Additional terms of the settlement include:
-- eHarmony, Inc. will post photos of same-sex couples in the “Diversity” section of its website as successful relationships are created using the company’s same-sex matching service. In addition, eHarmony, Inc. will include photos of same-sex couples, as well as individual same-sex users, in advertising materials used to promote its same-sex matching services;
-- eHarmony, Inc. will revise anti-discrimination statements placed on company websites, in company handbooks and other company publications to make plain that it does not discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation”;
-- the company has committed to advertising and public relations/ marketing dedicated to its same-sex matching service, and will retain a media consultant experienced in promoting the “fair, accurate and inclusive” representation of gay and lesbian people in the media to determine the most effective way of reaching the gay and lesbian communities.
I have enormous sympathy for eHarmony, whose attorney explained that they gave in to the unfair settlement because “litigation outcomes can be unpredictable.” The recent mob response to the passage of Proposition 8, the traditional marriage measure in California, must have also weighed on eHarmony management’s minds.
But capitulation will only yield a worse, entirely predictable outcome: more shakedowns of private businesses that hold views deemed unacceptable by the Equality-at-All-Costs Brigade.
Perhaps heterosexual men and women should start filing lawsuits against gay dating websites and undermine their businesses. Coerced tolerance and diversity-by-fiat cut both ways.