Rights for me and … well, mostly just for me

Lest anyone think that the lawsuit that spawned Prop 8 was an isolated incident, recent news brings us eHarmony’s capitulation on same-sex subscribers. Eric McKinley, a homosexual man who finds property rights a challenging concept, sued eHarmony in New Jersey on the basis that it discriminates against him by not offering a “man seeking man” option. You know, eHarmony founder Dr. Neil Warren, who is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of experience as a marriage counsellor, does all kinds of compatibility research, which he turns into a hugely successful online, marriage-focused dating service. Since his research focuses on heterosexual compatibility, it makes sense that that’s the crowd his service targets. But even if that weren’t the case, the point is that he provided the service: it therefore operates on his terms.

It’s just inconceivable to me that anyone thinks they have a right to dictate the terms of service of a private company. But we see it all the time. Here in Bloomington, for example, there is a comprehensive smoking ban because a handful of people who happen to live here happen to find indoor smoking obnoxious. In a rational society, the people who build the restaurants and provide the waitstaff jobs and pay the property taxes and provide the services that people voluntarily patronize would get to decide whether smoking was allowed on their premises that they pay for and work hard to maintain. People who didn’t like smoking would be (indeed, still are) free to build their own restaurants and cook their own food and hire their own staff and risk their own money and pay their own property taxes. But that involves effort and effort’s, you know, so effortful. Best to let city council just enforce your preferences. Fairness is for suckers … or something.

And so eHarmony becomes the latest victim of this increasingly immature segment of our culture. Some gay dude can’t be bothered to type Apple-L followed by c-h-e-m-i-s-t-r-y-.-c-o-m and hit return, which would take him to a website that caters to his “mating” preferences (being different from eHarmony in exactly this way is the entire focus of its advertising), ergo, he “reasons,” he is a victim of some kind, and since the courts probably have nothing better to do but make him feel better about himself, why the hell not? That’s what the law’s for, right?

Not that eHarmony is above reproach here, mind you. They themselves were gaming the system not two years ago when the chemistry.com ads targeting them started. Apparently chemistry.com was giving a “false impression” of their service by implying that their lack of a “man seeking man” category was discriminatory. eHarmony preferred people not think of it exactly that way, and since the courts probably have nothing better to do but make them feel better about themselves, why the hell not? That’s what the law’s for, right?

So no, I won’t be feeling too sorry for eHarmony itself. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If they wanted sympathy for being on the receiving end of attacks from the grievance industry, they should have declined to join it. But that’s the whole bleeding point: how we feel about this particular company or that individual shouldn’t matter to the execution of the law. I don’t have to sympathize with eHarmony in any way to recognize that they’re a victim of injustice here. It’s their service which they provide at their risk and their expense, and they should therefore have sole discretion over the terms under which it is provided. If Eric McKinley feels discriminated against, he is free to vote with his feet and take his business elsewhere. He is even free to set up a competitor and try to put eHarmony out of business. He is certainly free to start an anti-eHarmony boycott. But is there anything about his feeling uncomfortable that requires we get the police involved?

The reductio ad absurdum for this one practially writes itself. Should gay matchmaking sites now be required to cater to heterosexuals? Should gay discos no longer be allowed to bounce out straights? Are there to be no more gay support groups, gay-only comming out parites, gay bars and clubs? Of course not – and that’s as it should be. People have the right to assemble on their own property under any terms they wish. I just wish gays would come around to “getting” that that includes eHarmony.

So which gay publications have spoken out against this decision? Which gay-interest publications will now come forward and defend eHarmony’s right to offer its service on its own terms? Which ones will tell McKinley to fuck off and go back to kindergarten and relearn basic fairness? My Google search turns up a grand total of … none. Maybe they’re out there somehwere and I’m just not finding them, or if not maybe they will start cropping up in the next couple of days, but right now gay opinion doesn’t seem to have noticed much.

Which is why I continue to think of the gay rights movement as the most hypocritical bunch of whiners currently on the political scene.

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