Dating site eHarmony made good on its legal agreement with the New Jersey Attorney General this week with the launch of its new matching site geared to gays and lesbians.
The new site, CompatiblePartners.net, went live March 31. Free six-month subscriptions are available for the first 10,000 subscribers.
The launch comes four months after eHarmony creators settled a legal dispute brought by a gay New Jersey man, who argued that the Web site’s heterosexual-only services amounted to a violation of the state’s Law Against Discrimination.
eHarmony, founded by evangelical Christian Neil Clark Warren, purports to utilize a scientific formula to match personality traits of its approximately 20-million members, but only allows users to apply as a “man seeking a woman” or a “woman seeking a man.”
In a 2005 interview with USA Today, Warren said that while the company had not ruled out opening up its matching services to same-sex couples, it was hesitant to “participate in something that’s illegal,” referring to the fact that same-sex marriage is illegal in most states.
Eric McKinley, of Ocean County, N.J., filed suit against the company in March 2005 after he unsuccessfully attempted to use the site to search for a male partner. The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights issued a finding of probable cause in July 2007 and, although the company appealed, it eventually settled in November 2008.
Under the agreement, the company created the companion site, which is geared toward “singles seeking a long-term, same-sex relationship.”
Compatible Partners must utilize the same technology that eHarmony uses on its main site and guarantee the same quality of service to users. On its home page, however, Compatible Partners cautions that its research is based only on heterosexual couplings: “The company’s patented Compatibility Matching System was developed on the basis of research involving married heterosexual couples. The company has not conducted similar research on same-sex couples.”
Although there is no link to Compatible Partners on the main eHarmony site, users can identify themselves as a “man seeking a man” or a “woman seeking a woman” and be redirected to the Compatible Partners site. However, the sites do not accommodate bisexuals, as users of both sites must state they are seeking a “man” or a “woman,” but not either or both.
McKinley, who received $5,000 from the settlement, said the segregation of the hetero- and homosexual sites was unnecessary.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to have a separate site,” he said. “It’s a shame the company has to waste its resources to keep this separate; I wish it could have just been combined with the regular site.”
The settlement also stipulated that the company must revamp its diversity efforts, including featuring photos and success stories of same-sex couples under its Diversity tab, and must hire a media consultant familiar with outreach to gay and lesbian consumers.
eHarmony spokesperson Paul Breton said the company has retained the services of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations to enhance its ability to market the site to gay and lesbian users, and will publish testimonials from successfully matched same-sex couples once such matches have been made.
“Since the site just launched, we don’t have real success couples yet,” Breton said. “As soon as we do, we’ll use their stories and show their pictures on the site.”