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eHarmony settles over same-sex dating

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Online dating service eHarmony.com has agreed to create a new website for matching same-sex couples, as part of discrimination settlement with New Jersey's Civil Rights Division.

The agreement comes more than three years after New Jersey resident Eric McKinley filed a formal complaint against the matchmaking company over its heterosexuals-only policy. The state's Division of Civil Rights held an investigation and ruled in 2007 it had probable cause to uphold the allegations.

Under the terms of the settlement, eHarmony will launch a separate service next March, called Compatible Partners. eHarmony will also pay $50,000 to the attorney general's office to cover investigation-related administrative costs and pay $5,000 to McKinley. He'll also get a free one-year subscription to the new website.

In a statement Wednesday, eHarmony denied violating the state's discrimination law, and said it reserves the right to inform those using the new same-sex matching service that its (actually patented) matching system is based on "years of researching thousands of opposite-sex couples" only.

Registration at the Compatible Partners site will be free for the first 10,000 users registering within one year of its launch. After that time, subscription pricing will be the same as at eHarmony.com.

Additional terms of the settlement include posting photos of same-sex couples in the "Diversity" section of its website as successful matches are made, and retaining a media consultant to determine the most effective way of advertising to the gay and lesbian communities.

"I applaud the decision of eHarmony to settle this case and extend its matching services to those seeking same-sex relationships," stated Frank Vespa-Papaleo, director of New Jersy's Division of Civil Rights.

"Although we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be unpredictable," eHarmony stated on its settlement FAQ.

eHarmony said it "made the commitment" to the New Jersey's Attorney General's Office to put its business effort behind the new site to make it successful.

The Pasadena, California-based company was founded in 2000 by Neil Warren, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor with close ties to the right-wing Christian group, Focus on the Family. ®

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