The decision by eHarmony to create a same-sex dating Web site is an intriguing one.
At first blush, it appears the decision was risky because it frosted off its core constituency, conservative Christians. After all, the Pasadena matchmaking service was started by a born-again Christian. And, as pointed out in an article in last week's Business Journal, eHarmony had long resisted creating a gay matchmaking service.
For those reasons, eHarmony was seen as a champion by evangelicals and other dedicated Christians. Their support helped propel eHarmony to the top of the Web-dating world. (The fact that eHarmony focuses on matching up singles for matrimony and not for quickie hookups also endeared it to the Christian right.)
So when eHarmony a few weeks ago said it would create a separate same-sex dating service, some evangelicals viewed the decision as a betrayal just short of Judas Iscariot's.
Never mind that eHarmony decided to create the same-sex Web site to settle a lawsuit, a suit it may well have lost. The religious right wanted eHarmony to fight on, make a stand, go down fighting for the right. The fact that eHarmony caved in has provoked a backlash from conservative Christians.
What's more, the decision may not gain eHarmony many customers. After all, gays and lesbians long have viewed eHarmony as the enemy, and it stands to reason they may not flock to eHarmony's new site for gays.
So, the decision may be the classic blunder. EHarmony may have pushed away many of its existing customers while not pulling in many new ones.
But wait a minute. There is another force at work here.
Dating services appeal mainly to younger people, and young Christian conservatives are not like their parents. They are far more interested in such matters as global warming and, yes, gay rights.
Richard Cizik, an official with the National Association for Evangelicals, put some numbers to it last week in a radio interview on NPR.
He said 32 percent of young evangelicals voted for Barack Obama, twice the percentage that voted for John Kerry. Four in 10 young evangelicals say they have gay friends or relatives. And 52 percent favor same-sex marriage or civil unions.
So a big chunk of young evangelicals may feel perfectly comfortable with eHarmony's decision, even as their parents fume about it.
EHarmony could be at a turning point. We may look back in a few years and see the decision to create the gay Web site as an error as devastating as barfing in public on your first date. Or we may look back and see the decision as an intelligently prescient one that allowed the company to keep up with changing social mores.
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Last week we were told we are officially in a recession. That brings up a question: Just what good are recessions, anyway?
The biggest benefit is that they drive down inflated prices, a task this recession is carrying out with cruel efficiency. When prices get so low that buyers can't resist the bargains, buying activity resumes, and the cycle begins anew.
The good news is that we're seeing that occur already. Despite terrible retail sales generally, Black Friday results were better than anyone expected, thanks to one thing: low prices. And even Los Angeles' beleaguered homes are now priced so low they're moving briskly.
As you can see in the real estate section of this issue of the Business Journal, the number of homes that traded hands in November in L.A. County was 48 percent higher than the same month last year.
These examples are the early stirrings of the recovery that will follow.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at
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