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Did eHarmony hire the wrong lawyer in that gay discrimination case?

Remember that infamous 2008 New Jersey case against dating site eHarmony for not helping gays find dates? eHarmony folded in that battle faster than a lawn chair when the potato salad is all gone. Given that the dating site had long been associated with Christian conservatives, its decision has always puzzled me.

I recalled that capitulation today when I saw an article about settlement of litigation that will allow a gay sports league to continue to limit the number of straight players on its roster. As one who laments recent judicial evisceration of the first amendment’s free association rights, I cheer the federal district court’s pre-trial ruling in this case affirming the gay sports league’s free association rights.

It got me wondering who had given eHarmony the advice to fold in the New Jersey case. So I fired up Google, and nearly fell off my chair. The lead attorney in eHarmony’s capitulation to New Jersey in the gay dating case was none other than … Ted Olson, the conservative/libertarian lead attorney seeking to overturn California’s voter-passed Proposition 8, which blocked gay marriage in that state.

Small world.

eHarmony recently hired a former Zynga executive to be its new CEO, suggesting a possible IPO in its future. So don’t cry for eHarmony. Maybe clearing out litigation was important to prepare for a “liquidity event” – after all, a company exists to make money, not vindicate Constitutional rights. But I’d still love to know what Olson was recommending to his client back in 2008.

The writer is co-author of From Bailouts to Beer Summits, the 2012 Obama “Gaffe-a-Day” Calendar.

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