The online dating service eHarmony promises to match its customers up based on 29 Dimensions of Compatibility. Apparently one dimension they didn’t think about was how litigation-happy some people might be. Now eHarmony is being sued for “sexual orientation discrimination” in California by a woman named Linda Carlson who claims she was “denied access” to eHarmony because she’s a lesbian. She’s seeking class action status plus unspecified damages, and wants the court to order eHarmony to change its policies.
Ronald Coleman of Likelihood of Success points out that the claim being made by the plaintiffs is not a traditional discrimination claim; the plaintiff is not claiming that eHarmony refused to accept her as a customer. Rather, her complaint is that the site simply doesn’t provide services that same sex couples want:
The plaintiffs here are actually arguing that eHarmony is obligated not just to open up its existing service to people of all sexual predilections. It is requiring eHarmony to actually provide new services that it claims neither an interest nor any degree of expertise in, and which may require an outlay of millions of dollars. Let’s not even get into the moral preferences of the owners and management, which are presumed irrelevant by laws which outlaw discrimination against homosexuals or, in this case, may mandate the provision of special services to them.
For what it’s worth, eHarmony’s founder claims that the reason they don’t provide these services is not because they want to discriminate, but because they have expertise in matching up men and women, but not same-sex couples. That’s okay; I’m sure that trial lawyers and a judge can figure out how to run the business.
Readers of Overlawyered may remember that this is not the first time eHarmony has been sued; in March 2006 we covered a suit filed in California by (who else) a lawyer, who was denied service by eHarmony because he was still married and claimed this was “marital status discrimination.”