The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued a group with ties to a Virginia county supervisor for using a gay couple’s engagement picture in an attack ad against a Colorado lawmaker.
SPLC alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Colorado on Wednesday that Public Advocate of the United States, which is based in Falls Church, Va., misappropriated the likenesses and personalities of Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere when it used a photo of them kissing with the New York City skyline in the background to attack Colorado state Sen. Jean White. The doctored picture reads “’State Senator Jean White’s idea of Family Values?’” The lawsuit further alleges that Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delguadio, who founded Public Advocate in 1981, superimposed the couple onto a snowy, forested background “to imply the photo was taken in Colorado.”
“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,” said Privitere. “We hope that this group is held accountable for its reprehensible and hateful anti-gay attacks.”
SPLC, which has designated Public Advocate as a hate group for its anti-gay rhetoric, further alleges that the organization caused Edwards and Privitere mental anguish and anguish. It also filed suit on behalf of photographer Kristina Hill, who took the original photo, for allegedly using the picture without her permission.
SPLC said it notified both Public Advocate and Delguadio in July that it was investigating the unauthorized use of Hill’s copyrighted photo. The group’s letter further demanded confirmation that the group had stopped using the picture, but it maintains neither Delguadio nor Public Advocate responded.
“This case is about the defilement of a beautiful moment by a group known for demonizing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said SPLC Deputy Legal Director Christine Sun. “This was just a cheap way for Public Advocate to avoid having to pay for a stock photo to use in their hateful anti-gay attack ad. It was nothing short of theft.”
SPLC filed suit on the same day accusations that Delguadio had improperly directed county staff to solicit campaign contributions broke.
“Our heart goes out to the couple,” James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, told the Washington Blade. “The use of these wedding photos for political means is an invasion of privacy and disgusting. It’s time that Eugene Delgaudio and his company are held accountable for their actions. Delgaudio has a long history of working against the LGBT community so we appreciate the actions the Southern Poverty Law Center is taking to bring justice to this situation.”