Spark Networks Settles: Dating Sites to Recognize LGBT Users

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on July 08, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Love is blind. It does not discriminate. The same now applies to Christian Mingle and other targeted dating sites owned by Spark Networks, according to an approved settlement in a California court case seeking accommodation for LGBT singles.

The lawsuit was brought by two gay men on behalf of a class of plaintiffs and alleged successfully that the Spark Networks dating websites violate state law by not allowing certain preferences to be expressed in a profile or in site searches. According to the terms of the settlement, this will change within two years, CBC News reports.

Mingling Freely

A California state law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, mandates that "all business establishments of every kind whatsoever" treat every person within the jurisdiction as free and equal regardless of sex, race, religion, marital status and sexual orientation, among other things.

The complaint against Spark Networks and its sites stated, "Spark has engaged in a systemic and intentional pattern and practice of arbitrary discrimination against gays and lesbians throughout California by denying them full and equal services, accommodations, advantages and privileges in connection with many of its commercial dating services."

The class action lawsuit, filed in 2013, named Christian Mingle and other Spark Networks dating sites. The company owns multiple targeted matchmaking enterprises, including JDate for Jews, LDSSingles for Mormons, a Seventh Day Adventist site, a black dating site and one for military members, among others. Now all of these will have to recognize LGBT users with the same religious, racial or professional identities.

The Future of Dating

Spark Networks admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. But the agreement to transition the sites within two years is acknowledgment that inclusion is the law. The plaintiffs settled for very little financially, legal fees basically, and a big symbolic win in an area of civil rights that might have gone ignored for a while.

Theirs seems like a niche issue, but online dating is big and it is basic. Reportedly, one in every three U.S. marriages begin with an electronic spark, which is to say online. If this is where singles are going to mingle, then dating sites will have to comply with civil rights law.

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