For nearly a decade, born-again Christian Neil Clark Warren has been working to pair up men and women to help create lasting marriages.
After 35 years practicing as a clinical psychologist and counseling thousands of married couples, Dr. Warren had observed that, in many cases, marriages that endured were composed of compatible people, while marriages that deteriorated often did so because the differences between the individuals became harder to resolve over time.
With the help of a research professor at the University of Southern California, Warren set out to identify the characteristics between spouses that were consistently associated with the most successful relationships.
And after three years of research and development, they announced that they had successfully identified the key dimensions of personality that predicted compatibility and the potential for long-term relationship success.
In 2000, Warren launched eHarmony, which utilizes a patented Compatibility Matching System to find compatible long-term relationships. Today, eHarmony is touted as the Internet's No. 1 trusted relationship services provider and claims that an average of 236 eHarmony members marry every day in the United States as a result of being matched on the site. eHarmony is also available in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
While eHarmony's past efforts have been praised by the Christian community – the site's initial target – and pro-family conservatives – who helped give the site exposure following its launch – a recent announcement by the company has left both noticeably upset, to say the least.
"To those of us in the pro-family movement who hailed eHarmony's commitment to the virtue of traditional marriage, the company's actions are distressing and damaging," stated Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in an announcement to supporters.
"Dr. Warren et al, you sold your soul (or at least eHarmony's)…," added Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth about Homosexuality, in a letter to Warren.
Both Perkins and LaBarbera are referring to eHarmony's recent decision to offer homosexual dating services through an equivalent website, entitled "Compatible Partners," as part of a settlement to end a three-year court battle.
In 2005, a New Jersey man accused eHarmony of discriminating against homosexuals by operating a setup that did not extend searches to include partners of the same sex.
Theodore B. Olson, an attorney for eHarmony, said that even though the company believed McKinley's complaint was "an unfair characterization of our business," it chose to settle because of the unpredictable nature of litigation.
"eHarmony looks forward to moving beyond this legal dispute, which has been a burden for the company, and continuing to advance its business model of serving individuals by helping them find successful, long-term relationships," Olson said in a statement.
Under the settlement, eHarmony will pay New Jersey state division $50,000 to cover administrative costs and will pay New Jersey resident Eric McKinley $5,000. Furthermore, in addition to setting up the new website, the settlement requires eHarmony to advertise its new site on gay websites and include pictures of same-sex matches in the "Diversity" section of the its website.
News of the Nov. 12 settlement drew strong statements from pro-family conservatives who chastised the company for not following the lead of the Boy Scouts of America, who were also challenged under New Jersey's "sexual orientation" law.
"Even legal experts on the Left agreed that McKinley didn't have a case since Warren, as the owner of a private company, has a right to keep lawful limits on his clients," noted FRC's Perkins.
"What's worse, there were plenty of ways for the site to resolve the issue and keep its policy intact," he added.
LaBarbera of Americans For Truth meanwhile said it was a "shame" that eHarmony did not choose to follow the lead of the Boy Scouts of America, who won their case when the state of New Jersey was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"You could have set an example to Christians and freedom-loving Americans everywhere by fighting on principle for your company's First Amendment right not to be bullied into submission by a politically correct state bureaucracy," he wrote in his letter to Warren. "Instead, you capitulated."
LaBarbera said that he would join other pro-family organizations in encouraging singles to use "other dating services that have not sold out their God and their moral beliefs for the almighty dollar."
He has also asked Warren for a written response giving his justification for his promotion of relationships that he "at least once believed were against God's will."
"But please do not try to argue that eHarmony was forced into this sellout, because you could have chosen a brave and noble course of resistance rather than submit to state tyranny," he wrote.
Pasadena, Calif.-based eHarmony said it plans to launch its new service, called Compatible Partners, on March 31, the date when most of settlement's terms were agreed to be implemented on or by.
The site will be free for the first 10,000 users who register within a year of its launch. After that, pricing for the new site will be equal to that of eHarmony.