In a settlement with the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, the online dating service eHarmony, until now limited to heterosexuals, has agreed to start matching men with men and women with women. The deal resolves a complaint by a gay man who claimed that eHarmony's failure to accommodate homosexuals violated New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination. eHarmony's lawyer said it believed the complaint "resulted from an unfair characterization of our business" but settled because "litigation outcomes can be unpredictable." (Isn't that the main reason anyone settles a lawsuit?) The company's new service for gay singles, Compatiblepartners.net, may also resolve similar litigation in California.
I've never bought the argument that gay marriage—i.e., the government's evenhanded recognition of relationships between couples, without regard to sexual orientation—is a way of forcing "the gay agenda" onto people who object to it. But this coerced agreement, compelling a private business to provide a service it did not want to provide, certainly is. As Michelle Malkin notes, "this case is akin to a meat-eater suing a vegetarian restaurant for not offering him a ribeye or a female patient suing a vasectomy doctor for not providing her hysterectomy services."
eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren says the company has declined to serve the gay market because the compatibility research on which it relies to match people was done with heterosexuals and may not be applicable to same-sex couples. But even if he decided to focus on heterosexuals because he disapproves of homosexuality, that should be his right in a free society. Potential customers excluded or offended by that choice then would have a right to go elsewhere, instead of forcibly imposing their preferences. Likewise, competitors would be free to take advantage of eHarmony's perceived shortcomings, as they've been trying to do. Speaking of competitors, wouldn't the principle that justifies forcing eHarmony to match gay singles also require gay dating services to match heterosexuals and Jewish dating services to match Christians?
Katherine Mangu-Ward covered the controversy over eHarmony's "straights only" policy in the November 2007 issue of reason.
[Thanks to John Kluge for the tip.]