When Dr. Neil Clark Warren founded the dating site eHarmony, he never thought the site would come under fire the way it did. Warren had experience as a psychologist and had also published a number of books on successful and healthy relationships. He based his standpoint on a Christian ideology, in which he defined a couple as a man and woman. Those were ideas he grew up around and what he believed was the right attitude to take.
Warren began working with Dr. Galen Buckwalter on finding a new way of matching couples based on compatibility. The two worked together on a scientific model that used a complex system to match couples. Essentially the answers people gave on a survey identified their more important characteristics and matched them with others who felt the same way. The dating service launched in 2000, backed by the Fayez Seraphim & Co. investment group.
Almost from the beginning the website has banned the use of homosexual matches. Warren stated at first that he hadn’t done any research into these relationships and wasn’t sure if they used the same type of matching that heterosexual couples did. He later pointed out that the focus of eHarmony was in creating lasting and successful marriages and homosexuals couldn’t legally marry.
The first lawsuit against eHarmony came about in 2007 when Linda Carlson attempted to sign up for their services. After watching their television ads, which described their ability to match couples, she wanted to find her own perfect match. As a lesbian woman, she was surprised when she wasn’t given the option to match with other women. She filed a complaint with the company and when they didn’t respond, she filed a lawsuit against them.
The suit, which was filed in California used the laws of that state for its basis. A law on the books in California forbids any business from discrimination based on the sexual orientation of an individual. Carlson’s lawyer Todd Schneider believed that the lawsuit would break boundaries in gay rights. Eharmony responded by stating that the lawsuit was frivolous and without merit.
Schneider further explained that all other dating sites allowed gay matches. The class-action lawsuit asked for damages relating to the discrimination on the part of all gay and lesbians living in California who were denied access. The original lawsuit was found not to violate the law, but the company did make some changes.
Prior to the lawsuit, Warren was upfront about his connection to James Dobson. Dobson was the leading member of Focus on the Family, a group devoted to upholding Christian traditions including marriage and children between a man and a woman. Following the lawsuit, Warren and eHarmony stopped using their connection with Dobson.
Carlson along with another man by the name of Eric McKinley helped change the focus of eHarmony. McKinley launched his own discrimination suit against the company in 2005. The company responded not by allowing homosexual users onto eHarmony, but by creating a separate website for those individuals.The site was named Compatible Partners and used the same system of matching couples as eHarmony. The site was launched on March 31, 2009.
Resources on the eHarmony lawsuit include:
Other changes to eHarmony also came about as the result of the suit. They agreed to use pictures of same-sex couples in promotional ways, both in print and online advertising. They also changed their guidelines to make it clear that they didn’t discriminate against couples or individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. However, homosexuals matches are still not made on eHarmony, only its sister site Compatible Partners.
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