On June 27, a California state judge approved a settlement deal between the company and two gay men who sued the site after they found no options on the ChristianMingle.com site for connecting with other gay men who claim to be Christian.
The men alleged the site "arbitrarily and intentionally" excludes gays and lesbians from participation on the site – a violation, they claimed, of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which requires "business establishments" to offer equal services to clients regardless of their sexual orientation.
Spark also owns and operates other online dating services, including LDSSingles.com, CatholicMingle.com, BlackSingles.com, and MilitarySinglesConnection.com, and JDate.com (a Jewish dating site not named in the litigation). On each of those sites, the first identifying marker for a user was either "I'm a man seeking a woman" or "I'm a woman seeking a man."
"Spark provides these services only to individuals who have heterosexual relationships. Individuals who do not have heterosexual relationships cannot access these services at all, much less obtain full and equal services, accommodations, advantages and privileges no matter what their sexual orientation," the lawsuit said.
Under the agreement reached between Spark and the gay men, the homepages for the company's dating websites had to be changed immediately to no longer read, "I am a man seeking a woman," and vice versa. They now only read "I am a man" and "I am a woman." Sites such as the military dating site have been changed to reflect "male" and "female" as the first choices.
Spark agreed to provide additional search engine features within two years to make it easier for gays and lesbians to find potential matches. The company will also pay each plaintiff in the case $9,000 and reimburse nearly $500,000 in attorney's fees.