Pro-Family Group Sued for Using Gay Couple's Engagement Photo

A pro-family organization in Washington, D.C. is being sued by a gay couple and their wedding photographer, who say the organization used a copyrighted engagement photo of theirs in a political mailer.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is suing Public Advocate of the United States on behalf of Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, a New Jersey gay couple who were united in a civil ceremony in September 2010, and photographer Kristina Hill, who took the engagement photo. The SPLC is suing on behalf of Hill for copyright infringement, and for appropriation of personality or likeness for Edwards and Privitere.

"This case is about the defilement of a beautiful moment," the complaint, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Colorado, says.

The photo originally showed the two men kissing with the Manhattan skyline in the background – that is until other backgrounds, which look more like Colorado, were substituted for use in the two different political ads.

One mailer has the picture of the two men kissing, and in foreground reads, "State Senator Jean White's idea of 'Family Values?'" The other, an attack on Colorado house candidate Jeffrey Hare, has the same image in the background but says, "Jeffrey Hare's vision for Weld County?"

"We are heartbroken that our images may have been seen by gay and lesbian youth in Colorado and were left feeling ashamed of their sexual orientation because of it," Privitere said in a press release from the SPLC. "We hope that this group is held accountable for its reprehensible and hateful anti-gay attacks."

The SPLC says it sent a letter to Public Advocate in July demanding that the pro-family organization confirm that it had stopped using the copyrighted photo, but received no response.

According to Edwards' blog, he discovered his image was used on the political mailers on June 27, but only after a college friend saw it attached to an article in the New York Daily News and emailed him. He then searched the Internet and found the same image was also attached to an article from The Denver Post.

"It cuts us in half just below our hearts. How do I feel? I'm in shock and I'm angry and I'm hurt and I'm flabbergasted and I'm livid," Edwards wrote at that time.

Public Advocate was founded in 1981, and on its website describes itself as "a dedicated group of young conservatives" that "have never wavered from our firm conviction that decisions should begin and end with the best interests of American families and communities in mind."

The organization has worked to support things like school prayer, the addition of a traditional marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution, pro-life legislation and more. The Christian Post was unable to reach Public Advocate for a comment before publication time.

In an unrelated situation, Eugene Delgaudio, the president of Public Advocate and a four-term supervisor of Loudoun County, Va., has also faced scrutiny recently after a former part-time aide accused him of having her spend hours calling campaign donors while on county time, according to The Washington Post. Delgaudio says the fundraising lists used by Mateer and other aides were meant to raise money for the Lower Loudoun Boys Football League, The Post reports, not his campaign.

While the FBI would not confirm or deny that an investigation into Delgaudio's actions was taking place, The Post says it spoke with three former aides who have all said they were recently questioned by FBI agents.

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