"WOULD YOU like to start a new family by having or adopting a baby?” “What is your personal income?” “Which of the following religions do you affiliate yourself with?” “How far are you willing to search to find your life-long love?” These are all preliminary profile questions asked by the new gay dating site Compatible Partners, launched by eHarmony.com this week.
eHarmony, which became popular because of its Christian foundational roots and dedication to producing long-term marriage results, agreed in November to set up the alternative website by March 31 this year as part of a settlement from a 2005 New Jersey lawsuit.
The new dating website, Compatible Partners, is very similar to the popular original eHarmony site, but is a side-site customized for homosexuals. Much of the new site’s compatibility features are the same as the famous original matchmaking process, but there are a few differences. Compatible Partners has “male seeking male” and “female seeking female” labels, displays pictures of homosexual couples, and replaces phrases like “opposite sex” with “other people.”
Founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a psychologist with a divinity degree, initially jump-started eHarmony’s popularity through Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization. In 2005, Warren told USA Today the company's goal is marriage and that same-sex marriage is illegal in most states. "We don't really want to participate in something that's illegal," he said. EHarmony originally advertised itself as a service "based on the Christian principles of Focus on the Family author Dr. Neil Clark Warren."
Warren separated himself from Focus on the Family in 2005, however, saying the conservative organization was “a kiss of death” for his website. He bought back the rights to his books that he had previously published through Focus.
Dr. James Dobson said in a statement: "Dr. Warren and I have been friends for many years. He has been on Focus on the Family radio nine times, and we published six of his books. We helped publicize eHarmony.com, and yet, Dr. Warren recently said in an L.A. Times article that his association with us is 'the kiss of death.' I'm sorry he feels that way. He's a good man."
In 2005, Eric McKinley filed a lawsuit with his New Jersey Attorney General’s office against eHarmony, alleging discrimination because he could not advertise for a gay partner. In 2007, the AG’s office found probable cause that eHarmony had violated New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination—a charge eHarmony decided to settle out of court.
“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,” eHarmony said in a statement.
In addition to setting up a side website, eHarmony agreed to give McKinley $5,000 and a free one-year membership, give free 6-month memberships to the first 10,000 registrants, and revise anti-discrimination statements placed on company websites, in company handbooks and other company publications to make plain that it does not discriminate on the basis of "sexual orientation."
There is no direct link to Compatible Partners on the main eHarmony site, but users can now identify themselves as a “man seeking a man” or a “woman seeking a woman” on eHarmony, and are then redirected to Compatible Partners.
McKinley said the segregation of the hetero- and homosexual sites was unnecessary, The Philadelphia Gay News reports. “It’s unfortunate that we have to have a separate site,” he said. “I wish it could have just been combined with the regular site.” Compatible Partners also carries the disclaimer that it uses the matchmaking formula designed for heterosexual couples, not a new formula for homosexual relationships.
Critics are skeptical about the crossover process. Patrick Perrine, founder and CEO of myPartner.com, a dating site for gay men, told the Wall Street Journal that even the “men with men” compatibility system on his site would not work for other homosexual pairings, such as for lesbian women. “They’re very different populations that have very different needs,” he said.
The WSJ reports that “last month eHarmony was the sixth-most-visited online personals site, with roughly 2.3 million unique visitors, according to comScore. SinglesNet.com, which includes same-sex couples, was the leader in the category with almost 3.7 million unique visitors.”
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