eHarmony founder: ‘Staff feared for their lives after we were ordered to put up a gay dating site’

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The founder and CEO of dating website eHarmony, who previously said that his site didn’t cater to gay people because they couldn’t get married, has said that the recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions in the US had “damaged” his business.

The site’s founder, Clinical psychologist Dr Neil Clark Warren, also revealed that his staff had feared retribution from Christian opponents when they were forced to start a sister site for gay singles.

The company, eHarmony was founded in 2000 on the premise that by matching people with compatible personality traits the site could provide people with matches they could successfully marry.

The site now claims credit for 542 marriages per day in America and 565,000 worldwide, and builds much of its marketing campaign on those figures.

Dr Warren, a conservative Christian, said in an interview with Yahoo: “I think this issue of same-sex marriage within the next five to 15 years will be no issue anymore.

“We’ve made too much of it. I’m tired of it. It has really damaged our company,” he added.

When eHarmony first launched it only catered to straight singles and relationships. Questioned about this policy in 2005, Dr Warren said he was not interested in gay business because same-sex marriage was “illegal”.

In 2007 a discrimination lawsuit was filed by around 130 gay and lesbian plaintiffs from California who said they had been discriminated against by the site not offering same-sex services. 

The lawsuit sparked a three year court battle that resulted in the creation of Compatible Partners, a gay dating website “powered by eHarmony”, in 2008.

Dr Warren said that having to launch a sister site for gay people had been so unpopular with conservative Christians he had to take on extra security to protect eHarmony staff, who feared for their lives.

He said: “When the Attorney General of the state of New Jersey decided that we had to put up a same-sex site and we did it out of counsel that if we didn’t do it we were not going to have any business in New Jersey — we literally had to hire guards to protect our lives, because the people were so hurt and angry with us were Christian people, who feel that it’s a violation to scripture.”

He continued “I have said that eHarmony really ought to put up $10 million (£6.4 million) and ask other companies to put up money and do a really first class job of figuring out homosexuality. At the very best, it’s been a painful way for a lot of people to have to live.”

In 2010 the case against eHarmony was finally settled when the website agreed to be more “welcoming” to gays and lesbians, by linking to Compatible Partners from the eHarmony main page.

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