The state of New Jersey has reached a settlement with the popular online dating website, eHarmony. Under the settlement, eHarmony agrees to provide its proprietary online matching service to same sex singles.
In return, the state of New Jersey will not pursue a civil rights action against eHarmony that the state would surely win:
The company also agrees to ensure that same-sex users are matched via the same or equivalent technology as that used for heterosexual match-seekers, agrees to charge same-sex users the same fees, and agrees to offer the same service quality and terms of service as heterosexuals.
Unless somebody wants to argue that eHarmony is a religious institution, I think the law is pretty clear on this one.
More information about the settlement after the jump.
New Jersey’s Division of Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo applauded eHarmony’s “decision” to provide equal services to same sex singles. But it’s important to note that this settlement doesn’t require eHarmony to create new technology specifically to service the gay and lesbian community:
The company does, however, reserve the right to post a disclaimer noting that eHarmony’s compatibility-based matching system was developed solely on the basis of research focused on married heterosexual couples.
The most troubling part of the settlement is this clause:
eHarmony, Inc. will post photos of same-sex couples in the “Diversity” section of its Web site 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 …
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.
This is a bit tricky. It seems fair to force a company to provide the same services to all of its customers. But does equal protection demand that you “advertise” and “promote” same sex partnerships out of your own budget?
Let’s say that eHarmony also had a tendency to post pictures of women with C-cups. Would equal protection require them to post pictures of women with A-cups? Would they need to hire a media consultant to do outreach to small breasted women?
As far as I know, discrimination against tiny breasts does not rise to the level of discrimination against gays and lesbians. A higher standard should apply. But you’ve got to respect the distinction between tolerating and promoting.
Of course, the state isn’t forcing eHarmony to do any of this. Ah, the beauty of settlements: better informed than voters, less annoying than judges.