ChristianMingle Opens Doors to Gay Singles Under Settlement
The owner of online dating site ChristianMingle.com has agreed to let gay and lesbian users search for same-sex matches under a judge-approved settlement of discrimination claims.
Two gay men filed class-actions claims against Spark Networks Inc. in California courts in 2013 alleging that ChristianMingle.com and several other sites in the company’s portfolio of niche dating services excluded users looking to meet singles of the same sex.
ChristianMingle, billed as the largest online community for Christian singles, required new users to specify whether they’re a man seeking a woman or a woman seeking a man. The lead plaintiffs, two gay men who tried using it, claimed that the limited options violated California’s anti-discrimination law.
Known as the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the state law requires “business establishments” to offer “full and equal accommodations” to people regardless of their sexual orientation.
Under the agreement, the gateway homepages now ask just whether a user is a “man” or a “woman.” Spark Networks agreed that within two years, it would adjust other searching and profile features to give gay and lesbian singles a more tailored experience.
The terms approved by a state judge on Monday also apply to other Spark sites — including CatholicMingle.com, AdventistSinglesConnection.com and BlackSingles.com — that had operated in the same way.
Spark Networks also owns the popular online Jewish matchmaker JDate.com, which wasn’t part of the litigation.
Spark Networks agreed to pay each plaintiff $9,000 each and $450,000 in attorneys’ fees to the two men’s lawyers. The company didn’t admit any wrongdoing as part of the agreement, which was earlier reported by the Daily Journal legal newspaper.
“I am gratified that we were able to work with Spark to help ensure that people can fully participate in all the diverse market places that make our country so special, regardless of their sexual orientation,” one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys, Vineet Dubey of Custodio & Dubey LLP, said in a statement.
A representative of Spark Networks said the company was “pleased to resolve this litigation.”