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eHarmony agrees to make site "welcoming" to gays and lesbians, ending L.A. lawsuit

January 26, 2010 |  3:29 pm

Putting an end to two and a half years of litigation, the online dating site eHarmony.com has reached an agreement to pay a half a million dollars and make its website more “welcoming” to seekers of same-sex matches, settling a class-action lawsuit brought by gays and lesbians in California.

The company had already launched a service for gays and lesbians, called Compatible Partners, in an unrelated settlement with New Jersey’s attorney general last year.

As a result of the settlement agreement filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and pending approval by a judge, eHarmony will add a “gay and lesbian dating” category to their main website -- which will direct users to Compatible Partners -- and allow bisexual users to access both websites for one fee. 

The eHarmony site currently provides links for Christian, black, Jewish, Hispanic, senior and local dating. California residents who have filed written complaints with the company will receive $4,000 each from the settlement funds.

The website, founded in 2000 by clinical psychologist Neil Clark Warren, an evangelical Christian, did not provide same-sex matching services until last year, contending that the company’s closely-guarded compatibility models were based on studies of married heterosexual couples. In court filings, attorneys for eHarmony also pointed to websites exclusively providing same-sex matches, such as gay.com or guys4men.com, saying the company “does not stand alone among companies that provide their relationship-matching services to a single sexual orientation.”

Neither the company nor its attorneys immediately returned a request for comment. As part of the California agreement, the Compatible Partners site will display the eHarmony logo “in a prominent position,” and will state that the service is “brought to you by eHarmony.” The site currently states that it is “powered by eHarmony.”

-- Victoria Kim