Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Happens If Apple Creates i-Harmony and Excludes PC users?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Is it OK for e-Harmony to provide services for heterosexuals alone?

And I don't mean "OK" in the "do you find it palatable" sense, I mean in the "legally permissible" sense.

Are there other groups of people that e-Harmony excludes? People searching for adulterous relationship? People searching for polygamist relationships? I'd guess that they don't even ask those questions, but maybe they do?

Are there relevant reasons for e-Harmony to exclude homosexuals from their services? They've said that their system is based only on research culled from successful heterosexual marriages. Could that be a legitimate reason for not providing matching for same-sex couples?

e-Harmony has also said that there's nothing stopping them from offering their system to homosexuals in the future, and that they just haven't entered that market yet, and perhaps they will in the future.

Should a private business be allowed to offer its services to a limited set of the population? All the time? Some of the time? Where and how do we draw that line? Ladies nights? What about businesses that serve exclusively homosexual clientele (I'm assuming they're out there, or that they will arise)? What happens if we flip this around?

What if it's a religious dating service, and it excludes people who aren't of the religion? Does J-Date exclude non-Jews? Would that be similarly illegal?

Obviously, there's lots of questions here. Let's get a conversation going:

You're such a delicate boy
In the hysterical realm of an emotional landslide
In physical terms


Jeff said...

Actually, there are a lot of non-Jews on J-Date. But that's beside the point.

You can't join my temple unless you're Jewish (or part of a couple where one person is Jewish). You can still show up, partake in services, etc., but you can't become a member. I gather that this isn't illegal. So if eHarmony isn't kicking gay people off their website, is there an issue here?

This is different from a restaurant, where you sit down, you expect to be served, you're served, you pay as you go. eHarmony is more of a private club, which ought to be able to select its own membership without legal action. Recall that many country clubs did not allow black members until the 1990s (remember the big flap over the Shoal Creek PGA Championship in '90). It was the sway of the PGA - not government intervention - that forced clubs hoping to host events to integrate racially (at least nominally). One club here in NC actually kicked Billy Graham off the course because he had a black man in his group (this was back in the '70s - the club has since integrated). Many clubs - Augusta National foremost among them - still refuse to admit women. I don't see what the government can do here - right to free assembly seems to suggest that people can associate in private clubs with whomever they want.

CAL said...

Doesn't eHarmony reject clientele based on whether they feel they can successfully provide a service for them? Kinda like, "save your money, we can't help you", which I think is better than, "sure, fork it over, we won't be able to match you up anyway, but, sucker, you can still register." Okay, I know this COULD be thinly veiled discrimination too. I always have been a bit (a lot??) naive.

dyk said...

I think the question we have to ask ourselves is what things do we really have a right to? Like the cabbie who doesn't have to pick up a fare at a liquor store [or any fare, for that matter] (and the employer who doesn't have to employ that cabbie), I can't see in what way we can force a business to offer themselves equally to all demographics.
I think legally forcing eHarmony to conform their business to meet that demographic, especially when they do not posess the technology and information required to serve them to the standard that the company wishes to uphold, is a very scary proposition.
Imagine having the requirement on any business to cater their service to each and every consumer need. Certainly, it may be in the interest of that business to be able to serve any customer at any time in any way, but in some cases that may simply not be prudent or possible. The thought of restaurants being mandated to offer Halal and Kosher meals, or to have options available for any and all dietary needs (the diabetic, the seafood allergy, etc.) seems absurd.
The best solution is for an intelligent entrepreneuer to link up with eHarmony or maybe start up g-Harmony and serve that developing customer demand.
It oughtn't be a legal or rights issue.

the marvelous patric said...

i think the bigger question here is...

what is a guy like you, married to a hot girl like her, doing at a place like e-harmony?

Matthew B. Novak said...

I'm not on e-Harmony. I was reading an article about a lawsuit. I do that. I'm an attorney.