eHarmony Gets Squeezed in Suit, Will Market to Gays and Lesbians

LOS ANGELES — eHarmony next year will launch a matching service called Compatible Partners, which will be marketed to gays and lesbians.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based company’s announcement was the result of a settlement reached today with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which claimed in a lawsuit eHarmony violated the state’s Law Against Discrimination by not offering a same-sex matching service.

The New Jersey regulator got involved following a complaint by Eric McKinley, a gay match-seeker in the state, who now will be provided a free, one-year membership to Compatible Partners.

In addition, the settlement calls for eHarmony Inc. to pay McKinley $5,000, and to pay New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights $50,000 to cover investigation-related administrative costs.

eHarmony faces another suit in California. It’s unclear how this settlement will affect that case.

“Now that we’re entering the same-sex matching market, we fail to see what the [California] plaintiffs could achieve through further litigation,” said Antone Johnson, a vice president of legal affairs at eHarmony.

eHarmony was founded in 2000 by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist with once-close ties to the Christian evangelical group Focus on the Family.

eHarmony offers its services in the U.S., Australia, Britain and Canada.

Its website says that 236 eHarmony members marry every day in the U.S. as a result of being matched on the site using eHarmony's patented "Compatibility Matching System."

With the settlement, eHarmony denied violating the law, claiming its business model has been based on its expertise. The company said it has researched thousands of opposite-sex marriages to understand what makes opposite-sex couples compatible.

Registration on the Compatible Partners site, slated to launch by March 31, will be free for the first 10,000 users registering within one year of its launch. After that, subscription pricing for the new site will be equal to that for eHarmony.com.

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