07/11/2012

SPLC demands hate group stop misusing gay couple’s engagement photo

It was supposed to be a reminder of one of the most special days shared by Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere – their engagement photo.

The black-and-white photograph shows the two men kissing with the New York City skyline in the background. The picture was one of several that Edwards posted on his blog to allow friends and family unable to attend the couple’s wedding to share their joy. But what was supposed to be a symbol of the life-long commitment between two people in love was hijacked by an anti-gay hate group.


The original: Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere posted this photograph of their engagement on Edwards' blog. (Photo by Kristina Hill)
Recently, the men discovered their photo had been taken from the Internet and used in an anti-gay mailer to attack a political candidate in Colorado. The city skyline had been removed from the background and replaced with snow-covered trees one might find in Colorado. Bold words, on a red background, were added: “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘Family Values?’” White supported Colorado’s civil union legislation.

“This photo represented our love and commitment and the many challenges we have overcome in order to share our lives together,” Edwards said. “When I first saw how our photo had been publicly destroyed and used against gay and lesbian families, I was shocked, heartbroken and livid. I don’t want this to happen to another gay or lesbian couple.”


The altered version: Here's how the photograph looked after it was doctored by Public Advocate of the United States and used in anti-gay propaganda.
Neither the couple, nor the photographer, knew about the doctored photo until a friend of the couple informed them. The mailer was the work of Public Advocate of the United States, a Falls Church, Va., organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-gay hate group.

Today, the SPLC sent a cease-and-desist letter to the group and Eugene Delgaudio, its president. The letter, sent on behalf of the couple and photographer Kristina Hill, warns that the SPLC is investigating the unauthorized use of the copyrighted photo and demands that Delgaudio, Public Advocate and anyone acting on their behalf immediately stop using the photo. It asks Delgaudio to confirm within 10 days that he and Public Advocate have stopped using the photo.

“Delgaudio’s use of Brian and Tom’s personal photo is morally reprehensible,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “For years, Delgaudio and Public Advocate have led a crusade against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This latest attack is the most vicious yet and should serve as a warning that your personal photos are not safe from anyone willing to stoop to the vilest level of harassment.”

Hill, the photographer, said the doctored image twists the original meaning of the image.

“When I took this photo, I was capturing the love that Brian and Tom share,” she said. “When I saw how my image was used, I was sad for Brian and Tom. I was angry that someone would take my work, distort it and use it to reflect the opposite of what it was meant to express.”

Public Advocate has a history of attacking the LGBT community. The letter notes that Public Advocate “has spread lies and vitriol about LGBT people to raise funds, impede progress toward greater equality and to deny LGBT people basic dignity and respect.” It also describes other anti-gay activities by the group, including:

  • •Provoking readers through a fundraising letter to “imagine a world where the police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys in the streets”;
  •  

  • •Comparing marriage equality to bestiality through production of a “Man-Donkey Mock Wedding Ceremony”;
  •  

  • •Defamation of gay people as pedophiles and rapists to be feared. For instance, permitting gay men to be Boy Scout leaders, Public Advocate said, is “the same as being an accessory to the rape of hundreds of boys”; and
  •  

  • •Mischaracterizing national legislation to address an epidemic of anti-LGBT harassment at schools as “requir[ing] schools to teach appalling homosexual acts... force private and even religious schools to teach a pro-homosexual agenda... ram through their entire perverted vision for a homosexual America.... create a new America based on sexual promiscuity.” The thought that Public Advocate has used a symbol of the couple’s love and commitment for an attack cuts deep for the men.
  •  

    “Knowing our image had been used to spread lies, hate and fear, contradicts the original meaning of the picture,” Privitere said. “It was used to attack what Brian and I hold dear – our lives together, our family, and marriage equality.”

    The SPLC is dedicated to defending the rights of the LGBT community. It has worked to ensure a safe and respectful learning environment for all students – including LGBT students – through educational campaigns and legal action. And it has taken action to protect the rights of LGBT adults.