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eHarmony to Provide Gay Dating Service After Lawsuit

Online dating service eHarmony has agreed to create a new Web site — "Compatible Partners" — for gay and lesbian users, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General announced.

Created as part of a settlement with Eric McKinley, a gay man from New Jersey, the Web site will provide services for users seeking same-sex partners by March 31, New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo said.

eHarmony, which was founded by Dr. Neil Clark Warren in 2000, said the settlement was triggered by a Law Against Discrimination complaint filed by McKinley against the online service on March 14, 2005. As part of the agreement, eHarmony will pay McKinley $5,000 and will provide him a one-year complimentary membership.

eHarmony — which was not found in violation of the law — also agreed to ensure that same-sex users will be matched using the same or equivalent technology used for its heterosexual clients. It will also post photographs of same-sex couples in its "Diversity" section of its Web site and in advertising materials.

"Even though we believed that the complaint resulted from an unfair characterization of our business, we ultimately decided it was best to settle this case," eHarmony legal counsel Theodore Olson said in a statement. "eHarmony looks forward to moving beyond this legal dispute, which has been a burden for the company, and continuing to advance its business model of serving individuals by helping them find successful, long-term relationships."

Registration on the "Compatible Partners" site will be free to the first 10,000 users. The site and eHarmony will maintain individual matching pools and registration information. As a result, users of the "Compatible Partners" site and eHarmony.com cannot be paired together, the company announced.

"With the launch of the Compatible Partners site, our policy is to welcome all single individuals who are genuinely seeking long-term relationships," eHarmony Vice President of Legal Affairs Antone Johnson said in a statement.

The New Jersey settlement is not the first lawsuit filed against eHarmony for failing to accommodate sex-same users.

Linda Carlson, of California, sued the online dating service in May 2007, alleging it discriminated against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Carlson said she tried to use the Web site a month earlier to meet a woman, but was refused based on her sexual orientation. When Carlson wrote to eHarmony to complain, the company refused to change its policy, according to the lawsuit filed on her behalf in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The lawsuit claimed that by solely offering to find a compatible match for men seeking women or women seeking men, the company was violating state law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"Such outright discrimination is hurtful and disappointing for a business open to the public in this day and age," Carlson said in a statement.

The lawsuit, which is currently being litigated in Los Angeles Superior Court, named Pasadena-based eHarmony.com Inc., Warren and Warren's wife, Marylyn, the company's former vice president, as defendants. It seeks class-action status, a jury trial and unspecified damages.

The company, which conducts extensive personality profiling before introducing couples with matching values and interests, denied the allegation.

"We believe that this case is now essentially moot, and we're confident that we will prove that in court," Johnson said in a statement provided to FOXNews.com. "Now that we're entering the same-sex matching market, we fail to see what the Carlson plaintiffs could achieve through further litigation."

Attempts to reach McKinley and Carlson were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.