As Pride Month ends in America, there’s big news for the country’s LGBT singles. Faith-based dating site ChristianMingle.com must now allow users to look for same-sex matches following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit in California.
The site, which bills itself as the largest online community for Christian singles, currently requires new users to select one of two options when creating an account: man seeking woman or woman seeking man. That is now set to change, following a three-year fight for equal rights.
Two gay men filed class action claims against ChristianMingle’s parent company, Spark Networks, in 2013. The suit alleged that the dating site excluded same-sex users, thereby violating the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California’s anti-discrimination law.
The State of California's website states: "Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, all persons are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments, including both private and public entities. The Unruh Civil Rights Act protects all persons against arbitrary and unreasonable discrimination by a business establishment."
Spark Networks agreed to the judge-approved settlement on June 27. Under the settlement, Spark Networks will only require users to identify themselves as a man or woman. The company also agreed to add new options for gay and lesbian users within two years. The settlement applies to ChristianMingle.com as well as its sister sites CatholicMingle.com, AdventistSinglesConnection.com, and BlackSingles.com.
During the two years, “Spark will ensure that the ‘man seeking woman’ and ‘woman seeking man’ options on the gateway/home pages of the Mingle sites ask only whether the user is a ‘man’ or a ‘woman,’” reads the judgment. Spark Networks must not change the match prompts to “man seeking woman” at any time in the future, unless it also “provides similar prompts which allow individuals seeking a same sex match to enter and use the sites without having to state that they are seeking a match with someone of the opposite sex.”
Additionally, the judge ordered Spark Networks to pay $9,000 to each of the plaintiffs who brought the suit, as well as covering the full $450,000 in attorneys fees incurred by the two men.
Vineet Dubey, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, expressed gratitude for the case’s resolution. “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,” he said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Spark Networks told The Wall Street Journal that the company was “pleased to resolve this litigation.”