Compatible Partners: eHarmony Settles Lawsuit
Online dating site eHarmony.com has settled a lawsuit with the New Jersey attorney general's office and will start matching gay and lesbian customers by March 2009.
Matching for gay couples, however, will be handled through a separate site, dubbed Compatible Partners. Registration will be free for the first 10,000 customers in the first year, after which the rate structure will be equal to that of eHarmony.com.
EHarmony will also pay $50,000 to the attorney general's office to cover expenses and $5,000 to Eric McKinley, who initiated the lawsuit.
McKinley sued eHarmony in 2005 for violating the state's Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by refusing to offer its services to gay patrons.
In 2007, the attorney general's civil rights division issued a finding of probable cause that eHarmony had violated the LAD. EHarmony filed a motion for reconsideration, but opted to settle instead of proceeding with the case.
"Although we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle with the attorney general since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable," according to eHarmony.
In agreeing to the settlement, eHarmony admitted to no wrongdoing.
EHarmony has until March 31, 2009 to put Compatible Partners live. Users can get to the new site via a link on eHarmony, but customers of eHarmony and Compatible Partners will be kept separate.
Last year, Chemistry.com, which is owned by Match.com, capitalized on eHarmony's rejection of gay customers and produced a "Rejected by eHarmony" TV advertising campaign.
"Who knows why eHarmony has rejected over a million people looking for love. But at Chemistry.com, you can come as you are," according to one Chemistry.com commercial.