To settle a suit brought by a New Jersey gay man, says it will launch a Web site that will begin providing same-sex matching services in 2009.

The company also agrees to ensure that same-sex users are matched via the same or equivalent technology as that used for heterosexual match-seekers, agrees to charge same-sex users the same fees, and agrees to offer the same service quality and terms of service as heterosexuals.

"I applaud the decision of eHarmony to settle this case and extend its matching services to those seeking same-sex relationships," said New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo.

eHarmony, Inc. entered into the settlement agreement after a discrimination complaint was filed by McKinley against the on-line matchmaker in 2005, triggering a Division on Civil Rights Investigation and Finding of Probable Cause in 2007. Under terms of the agreement, the complaint is dismissed, and neither the company nor its founder, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, admits to any liability. Under the settlement agreement, eHarmony, Inc. can create a new or differently-named Web site to provide same-sex matching services, but the new Web site's home page must identify it as an affiliate of, or a site provided by, eHarmony, Inc.

The company does, however, reserve the right to post a disclaimer noting that eHarmony's compatibility-based matching system was developed solely on the basis of research focused on married heterosexual couples.

As part of the settlement, eHarmony, Inc. will provide a free, one-year membership to Eric McKinley, whose sexual-orientation-based discrimination complaint against the company led to the Division on Civil Rights investigation. In addition, the settlement calls for eHarmony, Inc. to pay McKinley $5,000, and to pay the Division on Civil Rights $50,000 to cover investigation-related administrative costs.

Additional terms of the settlement include:

• eHarmony, Inc. will post photos of same-sex couples in the "Diversity" section of its Web site as successful relationships are created using the company's same-sex matching service. In addition, eHarmony, Inc. will include photos of same-sex couples, as well as individual same-sex users, in advertising materials used to promote its same-sex matching services.

• eHarmony, Inc. will revise anti-discrimination statements placed on company Web sites, in company handbooks and other company publications to make plain that it does not discriminate on the basis of "sexual orientation."

• the company has committed to advertising and public relations/ marketing dedicated to its same-sex matching service, and will retain a media consultant experienced in promoting the "fair, accurate and inclusive" representation of gay and lesbian people in the media to determine the most effective way of reaching the gay and lesbian communities.

It's not just gays and lesbians that have had complaints about eHarmony's strict screening process in the past. In fact, dating site features in its ad campaign singles who had previously been rejected by eHarmony.

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