Not With My Money

I'm pressed for time and a little rushed, so please forgive this post if it's sloppy. I just took a look at Melissa's "Change" post, and since I was considering writing about this subject anyway and folks are discussing this in comments, I thought I'd better get my act together.

So. eHarmony is now going to provide a site for same-sex relationships.
The AP reports that as part of a settlement with New Jersey's Civil Rights Division, online dating service eHarmony "will begin providing same-sex matches. … Under terms of the settlement, the company can create a new or differently named Web site for same-sex singles. The company can also post a disclaimer saying its compatibility-based matching system was developed from research of married heterosexual couples."
This news irritates me, for several reasons.

First, this is a direct result of a lawsuit brought on by a gay man that didn't like that he couldn't seek a same-sex partner on the site.
McKinley, 46, said he was shocked when he tried to sign up for the dating site but couldn't get past the first screen because there was no option for men seeking men.

"It's very frustrating and it's very humiliating to think that other people can do it and I can't," he said. "And the only reason I can't is because I'm a gay man. That's very hurtful."
Okay, I just want to stress that this is entirely my opinion. Mr. McKinley, I strongly suspect that this lawsuit was a grab for media attention and money. There are plenty of dating sites out there for we LGBTQI folks (granted, there are far more for the "G's") that make eHarmony completely unnecessary. (Even one for gay Christians, an important point when discussing eHarmony; more on that later.) I do think that, living in a heteronormative society, being confronted by yet another "community" that is set up for "straights only" can be annoying and even distressing, but it's not as if there were no other options available to you. While I can understand wanting to fight against bigotry, I think it may have been better to spend your time and energy raising awareness of the fact that eHarmony is run by a bunch of bigots. Raising awareness of how LGBTQI folks are casually discriminated against every day might be helpful when fighting current battles for civil rights.

This also makes me suspicious:
Under the settlement, eHarmony will pay the New Jersey (sic) $50,000 to cover administrative costs and will pay McKinley $5,000.

McKinley called the settlement "fabulous" and said he was happy with the outcome. He said he's considering signing up for the new site once it launches.
Considering signing up? One would think that, after winning a legal battle to be allowed onto a website that was so "hurtful" to you, you'd want to be the very first subscriber. After all of this fighting, you'll walk away with your settlement and that's that? Wouldn't this be another ample opportunity to raise awareness of discrimination issues? But you find it all "fabulous." How precious.

Another aspect of this story that is irritating me is that "winning," in this case really means setting up a portal for LGBTQI folks to send their money to a group that hates them. In case you weren't aware, eHarmony is run by a evangelical with strong ties to the ultra-right wing Christian community. He was buddies with James Dobson, for Maude's sake (although he's "distanced" himself from Dobson, for a variety of reasons). Let's just say they were probably voting Yes on 8.
When I asked Warren about his refusal to serve same-sex couples, he listed several reasons for his policy. "First, we're into marriage," he said, pointing out that gay unions remain illegal in almost every state. He also doesn't feel there is adequate research on how men can be matched up with other men, or women with women.

Businessmen have approached him and asked for his help in building a company designed specifically for gay couples. Warren was proud to tell me that he advises them to research the kinds of compatibility that make gay relationships last. "It did my heart good that these guys I talked to, these gay guys, have since said, 'Neil Clark Warren was sympathetic.' That meant the world to me," he said. But it's also pretty clear that eHarmony is not about to reverse its own policy. Warren is simply too torn on the issue.

When I told him that I found it sad that my gay friends don't have the opportunity to take advantage of the eHarmony compatibility elixir of which he is so proud, he was quiet for some time. "I love the spirit with which you make that point," he said thoughtfully. "And we do do a lot of talking about how we love the idea of being inclusive." He paused again, sounding slightly shaken. "It's just not an easy point! We've got thousands of years of history of the human race in which this was never treated as a marriage and there are a lot of people who think it's just not going to have the same kind of stability over time.
And just in case you were wondering:
The Pasadena, Calif.-based company said it plans to launch its new service, called Compatible Partners, on March 31.

The site will be free for the first 10,000 users who register within a year of its launch. After that, pricing for the new site will be equal to that for eHarmony.
So, money out of the pockets of LGBTQI folks who may or may not be informed about the political/cultural/religious makeup of the people behind the site will be going directly into eHarmony's coffers. (And you can be sure that they'll be doing advertising in gay publications and on LOGO if they have to run this website anyway.) Something tells me they won't be working for our rights in the not too distant future. Not to mention the fact that "Compatible Partners" is the dullest fucking name for a dating website that I've ever heard. They couldn't even be arsed to put some effort into it, could they? You'll notice they're not calling it "eHarmonyGay" or something like that; Maude forbid there's a direct association between the two sites.

Oh, and another thing? You gotta "love" how, rather than simply setting up the ability to search for same-sex partners on their site, they're going through the trouble of creating an entirely new site. Still separate, but "equal." Don't get your stink in our nice, clean place.

eHarmony is a dating website for heterosexual Christians that are looking for someone to marry. The money the site brings in goes to further their goals and interests. I'm really not seeing a victory here. Remind me again why we simply had to be able to access this site?

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus