Christian Mingle Ordered to Allow Gay Singles
Online dating site, ChristianMingle.com must now allow its users to seek out singles of the same sex according to a judge-approved class action settlement.
Dating Site Sued for Excluding Same Sex Matches
The dating site’s owner, Spark Networks Inc., was sued in 2013 by two gay men who argued that the company’s refusal to provide same-sex matches constituted discrimination. Christian Mingle and the other sites owned by Spark Networks do not provide an option for finding same sex matches. When you log on to a Spark Network site, you are only given two options: “I’m a man seeking a woman,” or “I’m a woman seeking a man.” Spark Networks’ other sites include CatholicMingle.com, AdventistSinglesConnection.com and BlackSingles.com.
The complaint was a class action complaint alleging that Spark Networks arbitrarily and intentionally excluded gays and lesbians from its dating sites in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that Spark Networks’ policies were discriminatory, an injunction requiring Spark Networks to allow gays and lesbians to use its sites, and monetary damages.
California Law Requires Equal Accommodations, Privileges and Services
The Unruh Act provides, “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their… sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind.” Cal. Civ. Code §51(b).
As part of the settlement, the websites at issue will have two years to adjust their features to allow their users to search for same-sex matches. In addition to changing its policies, Spark Networks will pay $9,000 to each of the plaintiffs and $450,000 in legal fees. Spark Networks did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The settlement was approved by Judge Jane Johnson of the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles.
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Vineet Dubey, released the statement, “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.”
A representative for Spark Networks stated that the company was “pleased to resolve this litigation.” Additionally, Sparks Networks CEO told Christianity Today that “Like all other companies, we must abide by the laws that govern our state and nation…There is no greater agenda at hand here at ChristianMingle than uniting Christian men and women for the sake of finding happy and healthy lifelong relationships.”
Reaction to the Settlement
There have been some negative reactions to the lawsuit. BizPac Review titled its coverage of the settlement “‘Christian mingle’ dating service suffers terrible blow—yet another attack on religious liberty.” Additionally, RedState published an article titled “Christian Dating Site Attacked by LGBT Activists And Suffers The Consequences.”
Clayton Coates, a Southern Baptist pastor from Dallas, Texas, resigned from his position on Christian Mingle’s board of advisors following the announcement. He stated, “As I am a Christian, husband, father of six … it hurts my Lord and it hurts my reputation … and the reputation of my church to stay.”