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Southern Poverty Law Center demands hate group stop using gay couple’s engagement photo

Southern Poverty Law Center demands hate group stop using gay couple’s engagement photo

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Wednesday sent a letter on behalf of a New Jersey same-sex couple and their New York City-based photographer, demanding that the anti-gay “Public Advocate of the United States” group and its president, Eugene Delgaudio, stop using the couple’s personal photo in anti-gay propaganda.

Delgaudio and Public Advocate, designated by the SPLC as an anti-gay “hate group,” used an engagement photo of Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere without permission. The photo, taken by by Kristina Hill, was altered to include anti-gay propaganda to attack a Colorado senator, Jean White, who supported Colorado’s civil union legislation.

Eugene Delgaudio

“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,” said Sun.

The SPLC’s letter warns that it 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.

The letter asks Delgaudio to confirm within 10 days that he and Public Advocate have stopped using the photo.

The photo, taken to memorialize the couple’s engagement, was shared with family and friends through Edwards’ blog, along with photos of the couple’s wedding ceremony.

“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,” he added.

The original and altered versions of the photo are depicted below.

Courtesy: Kristina Hill Photography
Original engagement photo of Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere.
Altered image of Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere used in anti-gay mailers.

“When I took this photo, I was capturing the love that Brian and Tom share.” said Hill of Kristina Hill Photography.

“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,” Hill said.

Neither the couple, nor Hill, knew about the misappropriation until a friend of the couple informed them about misappropriated photo.

“I was shocked to see our engagement photo with a big red slash across it. 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.”

This isn’t the first time Public Advocate has attacked the LGBT community, and earlier this year, the SPLC listed Public Advocate as a hate group for spreading misinformation about LGBT people.

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.”

The letter notes 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 example, 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 “requiring schools to teach appalling homosexual acts” and forcing “private and even religious schools to teach a pro-homosexual agenda.”

A copy of the demand letter can be viewed here.

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