(note: this blog is NOT legal advice)
“Those Ashley Madison users who are suing the company for breach of contract have really taken the moral flat ground.” — Conan O’Brien, on Twitter
It may be hard, as comedian and talk show host Conan O’Brien suggests, to sympathize with the people suing adultery website Ashley Madison for breaking its promise of secrecy, when these same people have obviously broken their own marriage vows to “forsake all others.” True, not every couple says the traditional vows. Some make up their own, while others simply go to City Hall to get hitched, saying nothing. Nevertheless it seems odd that the sacred matrimonial promise, the one that is taken most seriously, the one that is often made in a house of worship, in front of our friends and family, is not legally enforceable — whereas the promise of secrecy made by a cheaters’ website is.
The Ashley Madison fiasco began in July when hackers — or possibly a lone disgruntled employee — revealed the identities of more than 30 million users. Not surprisingly, this has led to difficulties, to put it mildly, for many couples worldwide. For instance, a recent BBC story recounts what happened when a British woman named Maria discovered her fiance was a user. “He denied and denied and denied at first,” Maria told the BBC. Finally he admitted to multiple affairs. He went on to say that he “couldn’t explain fully” why he did what he did, but Maria meant more to him than the women he had met on Ashley Madison. Maria responded by packing a week’s worth of clothes and going to stay with a friend. Needless to say, the wedding has been cancelled.
A bonanza for divorce lawyers may be coming as a result of the revealed identities. Certainly, Ashely Madison is now in legal hot water — various class-action lawsuits are now underway, moral flat ground notwithstanding.
Bill Rogers is a Toronto-based lawyer, journalist, and family law mediator.