e-Harmony: Gays & Lesbians Need Not Apply
You’ve seen those e-Harmony ads -- the ones that promise to match you with the right partner for life. But as it turns out, gays and lesbians need not apply.
"I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." Groucho Marx is credited with that deliciously bitchy, supremely ironic quip; but for San-Francisco based lesbian Linda Carlson, it’s no laughing matter.
In early 2007, Carlson attempted to join eHarmony.com -- one of America’s most visible and successful online dating venues -- but was unable to make a love connection when she discovered the site only provides heterosexual-friendly search options. Men seeking men and women seeking women, it seems, were not welcome (to say nothing of bisexuals or the transgendered, which were off their radar to the point of stealthy non-existence).
Rebuffed after sending a letter of concern, Carlson pleaded her case to the media with an eye towards the courts (describing her experience as "hurtful and disappointing"). But why would anyone grouse about an organization that doesn’t cater to your preferences when its customer base is so ill-suited to your needs? It’s a bit like suing the manufacturer of a waffle iron for not providing the proper tools with which one could, if so inclined, exercise their right to make pancakes. Do we really need to clog up our court system when the marketplace is flooded with viable alternatives? Wouldn’t Ms. Carlson be happier plumbing the depths of Lesbotronics.com instead of casting her net on a site that caters to dreary, vanilla, marriage-minded and family-friendly straights?
Perhaps; but that doesn’t negate the fact that she’s been denied an opportunity to participate.
One of Carlson’s legal representatives, Todd Michael Schneider, characterized the lawsuit as being "about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love."
David Bernstein, writing for and ranting on The Volokh Conspiracy, weighed in with a statement whose blend of ignorance and irony would do Groucho proud: "eHarmony does not technically prevent gays and lesbians from using its services; rather, it provides services for people looking for partners of the opposite sex. Assumedly, any self-identified homosexual who decided to look for an opposite sex partner would be able to use eHarmony’s services."
Before the legal questions are further explored, however, let’s have a look at the site Carlson wanted to spend her rainbow dollars on.