Men can now check out men, and women can search for women, on the religious dating site ChristianMingle, which previously sanctioned only heterosexual relationships.
The site opened to gay users after settling a lawsuit that claimed that it violated California’s non-discrimination law.
But the new search function likely won’t prove very useful to gay men or women — the site now lets them view profiles of the same gender, but does not specifically show them fellow gay users.
“My sense is that a fair number of gay Christians will probably not be interested simply because they’re not interested in giving money to a company that has to be forced by the courts to serve them,” Gay Christian Network Executive Director Justin Lee said.
The lawsuit, according to Christianity Today, argued that ChristianMingle violated California’s non-discrimination law that prohibits for-profit companies, such as Spark Networks, which owns ChristianMingle, from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.
In an email to The Washington Post, Spark Networks said it has no plans to advertise the site to gay Christians, or to go further to make the site work for gay or bisexual users. “Like all other companies, we must abide by the laws that govern our state and nation,” the email said.
Prior to the lawsuit, the site offered two options: man seeking woman, or woman seeking man. Now, it asks users their own gender, offering two choices, male or female. Then it shows them the profiles of users of the other sex, but lets them switch to same-sex profiles if they choose.
Unlike several other dating sites, which specifically show gay users the profiles of fellow gay users, a lesbian who searches ChristianMingle for women now would end up mostly viewing the profiles of straight women. Same for a gay man.
That’s clearly not ideal for gay or straight users: “Nobody wants to have to search through a bunch of profiles of straight folks who are not interested in you,” Lee said.
Spark Networks said ChristianMingle has more than 16 million users. The company also operates Jewish dating sites JDate and JSwipe; dating sites for Catholics, Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists; Black Singles, Deaf Singles and Military Singles; and a site for “Big Beautiful Women and Their Admirers.”
One of the pastors on the ChristianMingle advisory board parted ways with the company after learning it would allow gay users. “When I came on board, CM assured me that they would hold to the biblical definition of dating and marriage,” Texas pastor Clayton Coates wrote in an email to The Post.
“It hurts my Lord and it hurts my reputation as a husband, father, pastor and the reputation of my church to stay on the advisory board,” he wrote.
The six remaining members of the advisory board listed on ChristianMingle’s website did not respond to The Post’s requests for comment.
There are gay Christians out there looking to date each other who could be in a market for a dating site, said Benjamin Mann, the president of Queer for Christ. The District-based group has 350 members who meet up at events, but Mann doesn’t anticipate those gay Christians will be on ChristianMingle any time soon.
“If the experience is already going to be limited or they’re going to treat this community as just kind of an afterthought, then why?” said Mann, a student at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. “Why benefit them? One thing about the LGBTQ+ community is, we recognize who our allies are. … If they’re going to intentionally just live by the letter of the law as opposed to actually creating a market for people in our community who might be interested in dating, that’s a very different scenario.”
Right now, Mann and Lee said, most of the gay Christians they meet at their organizations’ conferences and events use secular sites like OKCupid. But it’s not an ideal solution.
“Some of the apps that exist, especially for gay men, tend to get a reputation for being more for hookups than for relationships. For a lot of gay Christian men especially, there can be a kind of uneasy relationship with those apps, where they want to meet people, but not to be seen as looking for a hookup,” Lee said. Mann added that an openly Christian profile on a gay dating site — like his, which says he is in seminary — tends to surprise most gay men, and not in a good way.
If Spark Networks or another company created an app tailored to the Christian LGBT community, they say, there would be a market.