Internet matchmaker eHarmony.com will be required to provide same-sex matching services next year under the terms of a settlement reached today in New Jersey.
The online dating service, founded in 2000 by Neil Clark Warren, had previously refused to take listings for homosexuals. The new service - called Compatible Partners - will be marketed to gay and lesbians and be available through the eHarmony.com website.
Eric McKinley, 46, of Ocean County, filed a discrimination suit against eHarmony Inc. in March 2005 after trying to place a personal advertisement through the site.
"I heard their advertisement that Winter and thought 'Hey, this could work for me," McKinley said in an interview today. "So I went to their website but couldn't pass the initial screen.
"There was no option for man seeking man," he said. "It made me feel angry, mad, and sad. . . a whole range of emotions."
McKinley's suit triggered a N.J. state investigation of eHarmony Inc. in 2007. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in New Jersey.
eHarmony contested the charges for three years before the Attorney General's office issued a finding that determined the company had violated state discrimination laws.
McKinley, who remains single, will receive $5,000 and free membership for a year to the new dating service. eHarmony will also pay $50,000 to the state Attorney General's office to cover administrative expenses.
"I was never in it for the money," said McKinley about the settlement. But he added it was a win-win for both himself and eHarmony.
"They're going to make tons of money off of this," McKinley said.
The company, which was absolved of any liability, also agreed to provide 10,000 people seeking same-sex matchings with free subscriptions for six-months.
The Compatible Partners service will debut before March 31, according to a company statement.
"We believed that the complaint resultted from an unfair characterization of our business," the company said in a statement. "We ultimately decided it was best to settle with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable."
A spokesman for eHarmony did not immediately return calls.