A US dating service has agreed to launch a new site for gays and lesbians after it was taken to a civil rights watchdog by a gay New Jersey man who accused it of discrimination.

Eric McKinley filed a discrimination complaint against in 2005 because the online matchmaker refused to include gays and lesbians.

On Wednesday, it was announced that a settlement agreement had been reached between eHarmony and the Division on Civil Rights of New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office.

Under the terms of the settlement, eHarmony will provide a new service for match-seekers identifying themselves as “male seeking a male” or “female seeking a female” by March 31, 2009.

The company also agreed to ensure that same-sex users are matched via the same or equivalent technology as that used for heterosexual match-seekers, agreed to charge same-sex users the same fees, and agreed to offer the same service quality and terms of service as heterosexuals.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Neil G. Giuliano applauded the news.

“We are excited to see eHarmony agree to be inclusive of the LGBT community and that companies discriminating against gay and lesbian people by offering non-inclusive products are no longer tolerated. Today’s decision is another step for LGBT Americans to achieve equality in all aspects of our culture,” he said.

As part of the settlement, eHarmony will provide a free, one-year membership to McKinley, pay him $5,000, and will further pay the Division on Civil Rights $50,000 to cover administrative costs.

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