SPLC sues anti-gay hate group over use of couple’s engagement photoTop Highlights, Breaking News Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is suing Public Advocate of the United States, a group based in Falls Church, Va., over the misappropriation of a photo showing a gay couple kissing.
The photo, taken by Kristina Hill showed Brian Edwards and Tom Privitiere with the New York City skyline in the background. Public Advocate, who have been classified as a hate group by the SPLC, took the photo superimposed the couple onto a snowy, tree-filled background to imply the photo was taken in Colorado and then used it in a mailer attacking Colorado state Sen. Jean White support of same-sex civil unions. Bold words on a red background were added to the picture: “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘Family Values?’”
“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. “We hope that this group is held accountable for its reprehensible and hateful anti-gay attacks.”
On behalf of the couple and photographer Kristina Hill, the SPLC and its allies filed suit, today, in federal court for the District of Colorado, charging that Public Advocate misappropriated the likeness and personalities of the couple.
It also charges that as a result, the couple suffered harm, including mental distress and anguish.
“This case is about the defilement of a beautiful moment by a group known for demonizing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said Christine P. Sun, SPLC deputy legal director. “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.”
According to the SPLC, they sent a letter to Public Advocate and its president, Eugene Delgaudio, in July warning that it was investigating the unauthorized use of the copyrighted photo. The letter demanded confirmation that the group had ceased its unauthorized use. Neither Delgaudio nor Public Advocate responded to the letter.
The couple shared the original engagement photo with family and friends through Edwards’ blog, along with photos of the couple’s wedding ceremony.
“I cringe every time I look at what once was one of our favorite photos,” Edwards said. “All I see now is the defiled image used to attack our family and our community. All we want is justice for the pain that Public Advocate has caused us.”
The lawsuit also charges that Public Advocate infringed on Hill’s exclusive right to the photo, which is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Unauthorized use of Hill’s work jeopardizes her livelihood as a professional photographer and the satisfaction she receives knowing her clients are pleased and will enjoy her work for years.
“It fuels me as a photographer to know that my photographs will be cherished, that they will hang on walls, be passed around at gatherings, put in albums, and that someday maybe children and grandchildren will display these moments in their own homes,” said Hill of Kristina Hill Photography. “To see the photo used as an attack ad is heartbreaking for me.”
The SPLC states that this isn’t the first time Public Advocate has attacked the LGBT community. Other activities by the group include:
A fundraising letter asked readers to “imagine a world where the police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys in the streets.”
The group compared marriage equality to bestiality by staging a “Man-Donkey Mock Wedding Ceremony.”
Public Advocate has claimed that permitting gay men to be Boy Scout leaders is “the same as being an accessory to the rape of hundreds of boys.”
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