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Dobson and the eHarmony guy are best buddies

Neil Clark Warren says his service excludes gays and lesbians because “he does not know enough about gay and lesbian relationships to do same-sex matching.”

If you’re queer and looking for a mate, you’re not welcome at the popular Neil Clark Warren is close friends with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, so that pretty much says it all. When it comes down to dollars and sense Warren is not stupid — there are no more public references to his ties with Dobson.

You’ve no doubt seen Neil Clark Warren on TV commercials: He’s the affable, silver-haired gentleman touting eHarmony, the rapidly growing online dating site he founded five years ago. Or maybe you caught Saturday Night Live or Jay Leno spoofing his earnest manner and “29 dimensions of compatibility.”

…And he really does want to set you up – but only if you’re emotionally healthy, heterosexual and want to get married. A psychologist with a divinity degree, Warren has emerged from the Christian community – three of his 10 books on love and dating were published by conservative Focus on the Family – to become one of the Internet’s most unlikely entrepreneurs.

…Warren started out marketing primarily to Christian sites, touting eHarmony as “based on the Christian principles of Focus on the Family author Dr. Neil Clark Warren.” The connection may come as a surprise to today’s mainstream users: Nothing in Warren’s TV or radio ads ($50 million spent last year, $80 million projected this year) hints at his Christian background.

And while it’s no secret, the Web site doesn’t play it up, either. eHarmony increasingly is seeking out secular audiences through online partnerships, including promotions on and other news sites owned by USA TODAY’s parent company, Gannett. As part of that effort, Warren is trying to distance himself from Focus on the Family and its founder James Dobson, a longtime friend.

…Warren says he will no longer appear on Dobson’s radio show, and he recently bought back the rights to the three books Focus on the Family published -Finding the Love of Your Life, Make Anger Your Ally and Learning to Live with the Love of Your Life – so he can drop Focus’ name from their covers.

The lame defenses for not considering same-sex matches are nuts, but hey he’s targeting his desired audience.

Some also criticize eHarmony’s decision to refuse to provide matches for gays and lesbians – a policy that differs from Yahoo, and many other sites.

“From a corporate perspective, eHarmony does discriminate. There’s clearly a deliberate desire to exclude gay people from the site,” says New York psychiatrist Jack Drescher, who is gay and treats gay and lesbian couples.

But Warren says eHarmony promotes heterosexual marriage, about which he has done extensive research. He says he does not know enough about gay and lesbian relationships to do same-sex matching. It “calls for some very careful thinking. Very careful research.” He adds that same-sex marriage is illegal in most states. “We don’t really want to participate in something that’s illegal.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding