Friday, November 28, 2008

NJ, CA: eHarmony pressured to offer dating services to gays: is government going way too far?

The online dating service eHarmony has drawn media attention, particularly from libertarian as well as traditionally conservative sources, because of legal efforts against it in both New Jersey and California to pressure it to offer online dating for gays.

The Washington Times lead editorial on Friday Nov. 28 is titled “Judicial Imperialism” and the link is here with some emphasis on actions by a New Jersey attorney general. PC Magazine (which we expect to be libertarian in stance) also reports “eHarmony Dispute heads for Mediation,” article Nov. 21, 2008 by Chloe Albanesius, link here, about actions take in California. The Times points out that the service was apparently started by an evangelical Christian to promote dating according to a particular set of values.

These sort of scenarios can be argued to their “logical extremes”. For example, ENDA-like legislation has been opposed because it would force gay bars to hire straights. In fact, straight people do work in gay establishments with absolutely no issues. And there are plenty of small companies and entrepreneurs setting up gay dating services.

Or consider Net Neutrality. Some people fear that ISP’s would get set up that would only accept “certain” content. So far, with large corporations this has not happened. But there is no reason why individual site owners should not be allowed to accept or refuse content according to their own tastes, even if that taste is prejudices. (Bloggers are absolute monarchs when it comes to accepting or rejecting comments on their own sites.) At some level, freedom of expression and freedom of choice can conflict with more egalitarian ideas about social justice.

Some of these kinds of problems stem from looking a LGBT people as a “minority” or as a people with immutable traits, rather than looking at what kind of freedom belongs within the “fundamental rights” umbrella and what kind of responsibilities go with that freedom.

Today, at least on the eHarmony matter, I have to side with the Washington Times (and eHarmony). I feel that New Jersey and California are setting dangerous examples for now completely unrelated areas. But I won’t be using eHarmony myself.

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