In 2005, Eric McKinley logged on to eHarmony’s matchmaking service and was troubled to learn that the site did not offer him the option of "male seeking male." McKinley promptly filed a complaint with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division—which picked up the case, accusing eHarmony of discriminating based on sexual orientation.
Instead of continuing to fight the government—which enjoys limitless public resources and can afford to litigate indefinitely—eHarmony decided to submit in November. That result should trouble anyone who values liberty, no matter where one stands on gay rights.
Simply put, eHarmony did not discriminate against McKinley—if the definition of "discrimination" is to have a meaning tethered to a modicum of common sense.
McKinley was not barred from signing up for the dating service as, for instance, blacks were barred from sitting down at "whites-only" lunch counters in the Jim Crow South. eHarmony simply didn’t provide the service McKinley wanted: male-male matchmaking.
eHarmony’s business plan was focused on what it spent enormous sums of money to research–the key components of male-female partnerships. Demanding that eHarmony accommodate same-sex clients is akin to walking into an Asian grocery store, discovering they don’t have Kosher meat, and suing for religious discrimination.
The issue here is freedom—specifically, economic freedom and the freedom of association. eHarmony, like any private entity or individual, has the fundamental right to associate with whom they choose so long as no one else’s rights are violated.
The Web-based matchmaking marketplace is virtually limitless, providing many online options to suit all kinds of people’s needs. In fact, in the wake of a similar suit filed in California in 2007, a competing dating service (chemistry.com) started running ads criticizing eHarmony for not matching up same-sex couples.
That’s how these things should be settled—in a free-market forum that protects the liberty of eHarmony to retain its business plan and different dating sites to retain theirs. The disturbing precedent set in this case logically opens up gay matchmaking services to frivolous but expensive lawsuits from trouble-making heterosexual clients.
That destructive road was opened because government gets very little push-back when it erodes, little by little, our constitutional freedoms.
—James G. Lakely is managing editor of Infotech & Telecom News, a publication of The Heartland Institute in Chicago, Illinois. TAC editor S. T. Karnick serves as senior editor of the publication.