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June 01, 2007

Serve Me, Or Else!

With a tip of the hat to Ron Coleman at Dean's World comes word of a certain clientele that will take a company to court for not catering to them.

Now, would it make sense for used of Macintosh computers to sue software companies that only write for Windows, complaining that they should have equal access to that software as well? No, it would be silly, and certainly not allowed. I mean, after all, those Windows programmers know the PC, not the Mac. You'd want someone who knows the hardware you're using to write for it. And besides, can't a company choose it's market?

Perhaps not. Depends on who you are.

The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.

Define "denied access" for me, will you?
Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.

They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.

So to "deny access" means to not offer the specific options in a service that you want. Mac users, your time is coming if this lawsuit makes it through the court system.
eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

There might even be some anti-Christian bias going on here. But that doesn't even really have to enter the picture to show how meritless this suit is, or should be. Using my previous example, would you want Windows programmers writing your Mac software? Dr. Warren has said that he doesn't consider himself an expert in homosexual relationships, and eHarmony is essentially selling his knowledge.
eHarmony could not immediately be reached for comment. Commenting in the past on eHarmony's gay and lesbian policy, Warren has said that he does not know the dynamics of same-sex relationships but he expects the principles to be different.

Let's sue the butcher for not knowing how to prepare tofu.

And this is just silly...

"This lawsuit is about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love," said Carlson lawyer Todd Schneider.

How in the world does one business not catering to you somehow deny you the right to do...anything? The very first comment at the "Likelihood of Success" blog (second link above) puts the lie to this immediately.
I’m happily married now for 18 years, so I have zero experience with the on-line dating world. So it was news to me that eHarmony didn’t offer same-sex services.

But it wasn’t news I learned here. No, I learned it when one of their competitors’ ads came on: a somewhat clever ad where a guy looks at some listings of attractive women, and then says, “Nope. Still gay.” Point made: “Hey, if eHarmony won’t help you, we’ll be happy to.”

So the market has already solved this problem: eHarmony’s business choice created an opportunity, and a competitor is taking advantage of the opportunity. If this leads the competitor to get better known and better liked overall, then you can bet eHarmony will reconsider. If this remains a niche market and doesn’t have any carryover impact on brand loyalty, then eHarmony will continue to ignore the niche, and the competitor will find it a profitable niche to serve.

Problem solved. Leave the courts out of it.

(I've left off the last line of his comment, since it would become obvious where I got the Mac/Windows analogy from.)

If this lawsuit succeeds, it will cement homosexuality as a seriously privileged class, and be a giant step towards telling churches that consider homosexuality a sin that they don't have the religious freedom they thought they did. If this lawsuit does not succeed, it will not be because society is homophobic. When Catholic adoption agencies decide not to give children to same-sex couples due to religious reasons, it's the same situation. And in both cases, the market can, and has, dealt with it. A lawsuit over it is just narcissistic.

Posted by Doug at June 1, 2007 03:04 PM

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Good post. Of course, I'll have to show off my particular talent for building mountains using nothing but molehills. Sure, lots of people can do it, but I'm especially good at it (if I do say so myself).

If this leads the competitor to get better known and better liked overall, then you can bet eHarmony will reconsider.
If business/economic factors are the only things taken into consideration by eHarmony. I wonder if any principles will come into play or if they'll roll over faster than fido for a filet mignon? It'll be interesting to see. I think you're right about this being an important case. As our society hurtles down the crooked "the gay way is a great way" path, will our Churches show the necessary gumption to go against the cultural current on homosexuality? Stay tuned... (say, wa'nt there something like "he who endures to the end, sumpin' sumpin' said by some guy a long time ago?).

Posted by: plodon at June 2, 2007 02:23 AM

True, if business sense is the only thing going on in Dr. Warren's mind, then he may reconsider. If not, he'll stick to his principles.

As it is, without same-sex relationships, eHarmony is prospering. (After all, you don't sue someone who can't pay.) I hope Dr. Warren hangs in there.

Posted by: Doug Payton at June 2, 2007 10:11 AM

This blog, The Line, has an interesting little blurb on this subject - "gayHarmony" (the comments being the most interesting part). The subtitle for this blog is "bringing focus to the single years". Well, personally, I'm way past thier target age group, but it's interesting reading nontheless.

Posted by: plodon at June 3, 2007 01:50 PM

Oops. Ok - the link to that particular article didn't work out real well, I'll try a link to the main page.

Posted by: plodon at June 3, 2007 02:06 PM

I was disturbed when I heard about the lawsuit toward e-harmony. In fact, when I heard there was a lawsuit, not knowing any details, I guessed the details right away and told my wife. I could see it coming -considering Dr. Warren's faith.

Posted by: bill at June 5, 2007 04:20 PM