I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this since I heard about it on NPR news on Friday. It seems a woman in California is suing the online dating service, eharmony.com, because it does not offer its compatibility services to gays, lesbians, or bisexuals. The company says that it doesn’t offer the service because they have insufficient research into what might make a homosexual relationship work. In a statement, an eharmony representative said that “Nothing precludes us from providing same-sex matching in the future. It’s just not a service we offer now based upon the research we have conducted,”
I am of two minds about this.
First of all, the research thing is a load of crap. The same things that make successful hetero marriages are the same things that will make successful homo marriages, and to claim otherwise really is discriminatory (not to mention just plain dumb). Are the eharmony people really saying there that they think that gay people are so different that the things that make strong, healthy relationships – if I’m remembering the (endless) t.v. ads correctly, the founder mentions things like “mutual respect” and “joy in living” – don’t apply to gays? Do they think that there are some other underlying principles that form the foundations of gay marriages (oh, excuse me – gay relationships; we haven’t figured out that whole marriage thing yet…don’t get me started…) that they don’t know enough about because they haven’t conducted sufficient research yet?
HOWEVER, I did say I was of two minds about this thing, and here comes the other half. I’m going to use a parallel here; stay with me, I hope to make it clear in the end:
I am allergic to shellfish. Very, very allergic; to the point where I can have a pretty severe reaction if a waitress touches a shrimp and then brings my plate of spaghetti to my table. I can have a reaction collecting shells off the beach. In some cases, I can get reactions (though, admittedly, mild ones) from the air in certain restaurants.
One of those certain restaurants is down the street from my home, and is a favorite of my in-laws. I can’t eat a single item off the menu and be certain that I won’t need to medicate afterward; all the food is cooked on the same grills and in the same fry-o-lators. I can’t even trust the non-cooked foods because there is no way that I can be certain that the person who puts my salad together hadn’t just finished dressing a lobster for my mother-in-law. Knowing this, I don’t go to that restaurant with the Chilis (and, to their credit, they often don’t even invite us when they go – though it’s a special occasion when the siblings come from their far-flung homes to visit, but I send Mr. and Punkin’ and Beanie and join everyone for dessert afterward, and I’m fine with that).
Yes, I may be skirting the line of heresy by comparing my allergy to homosexuality, but stay with me for a second. My allergy affects my life and the choices I get to make. It keeps me from certain activities, like going to particular restaurants. I didn’t choose this condition – I was born with it and have absolutely zero control over how I get to interact with it; it’s a part of who I am. These same things can be said about homosexuality, so I don’t think I’m stretching the lines very much.
Do I want to sue that restaurant? No, I don’t – the thought has never even crossed my mind (until I came up with this analogy). They don’t offer services I can use. Could I sue the restaurant? Probably, but why would I do that? There are plenty of other places that I can go to for a dinner out – places that I would enjoy more, even – and I don’t feel the need to make myself into a victim to prove some sort of point.
I almost understand the drive to sue eharmony. They ARE being dumb and lazy, but I don’t think they’re being outright discriminatory. I could be wrong about that, I admit, but I’m just not sure I see the point in forcing this company to offer its services to gays any more than I see the point in forcing the seafood restaurant down the street to offer its services safely to me.
Should eharmony open up its databases to gays? Yes, if it wants to be an ethical company (and, not for nuthin’, if it wants to make a TON more money). Should it be forced to? I’m just not sure…