I have been wanting to post on the e-Harmony settlement. I have the same reaction to its founder and his participation in its TV commercials as I do to George of the Men's Wearhouse. I am sure that he's a nice guy and all,but he might be a tad overexposed.
For those who missed it, eHarmony is a computer dating service that touts a system for matching men and women who are thought to be compatible based upon their answers to a series of questions. As I understand it, the system is based upon research on the experiences of heterosexual couples and premised upon the particular responses of men and women as to what they seek in an opposite sex partner and self identification of certain values and attributions. The selection of the questions is based on experience with married couples.
(I've thought it would be interesting to register and see if your are matched with your spouse, but the idea is hardly original. Green Acres did it in that age of punch cards.)
eHarmony doesn't provide this service for gays and lesbians and, for this reason, found itself subject to a discrimination complaint in New Jersey and California. Faced with significant litigation costs, it decided to settle the New Jersey matter and will develop a separate site for same sex matching.
The case hardly seems to be about discrimination in the traditional sense of the word. eHarmony developed a product designed for heterosexuals. It did not choose to develop one for same sex couples. That, in and of itself. cannot constitute discrimination. Harley's and Victoria's Secret do not discriminate by failing to sell, respectively, women's and men's clothing.
Those who support the idea of discrimination would respond by saying the analogy is inapt. There is a difference between clothing for men and women but not between heterosexual and homosexual couples.
That may be true but it's not self evident. Whether by socialization or otherwise, there are differences between men and women that affect relationships between them. This strongly suggests that a relationship between two men and two women will be different. Accepting a separate system for same-sex couples seems to be an acknowledgement of that.
Perhaps these differences are not relevant to the eHarmony system. I don't know and neither does the Attorney General for New Jersey. The case is not about that. It's about making the point that gender is irrelevant to sexuality other than for its obvious limitations on physical activities and the superficialities associated with socially constructed gender roles.
It also raises, again, the question of conscience protection as it relates to sexual orientation. Our society has decided that individuals cannot act in certain ways even if they belief that separation of the races is a moral imperative. Ought we treat beliefs about sexual orientation in the same way?