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Thursday, April 2, 2009

eHarmony Presents: "Shotgun Wedding"

This week we received an announcement of eHarmony’s new gay site; This new gay portal was established as a result of a settlement between eHarmony and the New Jersey Attorney General last November as a result of a discrimination lawsuit.

I love how the LA Times calls it a “shotgun wedding,” as the dating site’s Founder, Neil Clark Warren was always very adamant about providing the service solely for heterosexual couples. He claims that his dating site, was created based upon his 40-year psychology practice.

His CEO however is playing the game; “Compatible Partners is a quality matching service with a focus on long-term relationships for gay and lesbian singles,” said eHarmony, Inc. CEO Greg Waldorf. “We’re excited to add this new site to eHarmony, Inc.’s growing portfolio of brands.”

However, it brought up a very interesting question for me and deserved a little research. “Does this settlement mean that gay dating sites now have to provide a service for non-gay couples?

What is going to happen to the business practice of niche marketing? To tell you the truth, it also made me wonder about Echelon and whether or not I would have to provide “mainstream” business article.

Tara Borrelli of Lambda Legal put my mind at ease. She commented, “Non-discrimination laws do not prevent a business from offering important services of interest to a particular community, such as an LGBT magazine.” But if I required all advertisers and subscribers to be gay, I would be in trouble.

In eHarmony’s case, it all boils down to “business justification.” Can a business justify why they are targeting a specific group. This makes for a tough case for the majority, but still supports the minority. Borrelli also adds, “Businesses should not recognize two classes of customers. Anti-discrimination laws are designed to eradicate arbitrary discrimination, which take a terrible toll on our public life."

Time will only tell on how well Compatible Partners does. Many people within our community are all too familiar with the eHarmony case and as part of the settlement, they are only supposed to put forward a “good faith effort.”

I’m also curious about the name, “Compatible Partners.” It’s not one that would send the gay cows running. Webster’s dictionary defines “compatible” as; logically consistent. Personally, I would have gone for something like: Gay-harmony or G-harmony. Now that’s what I would call a “good faith effort, and it's logically consistent!”

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