News (USA)

SPLC moves to add pro-gun groups to ongoing lawsuit over anti-gay mailings

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Two pro-gun groups conspired with an anti-gay hate group to create political mailers that used a gay couple’s copyrighted engagement photo to attack candidates in the 2012 Colorado Republican primaries, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC said Wednesday it has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Colorado seeking to add the pro-gun groups and other individuals as defendants to the ongoing lawsuit brought on behalf of the couple and photographer.

The motion filed today reveals a scheme in which two Colorado-based pro-gun groups — the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) — worked with Public Advocate of the United States to produce mailings that used the photo of Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, created and owned by Kristina Hill, without the photographer or couple’s permission.

The mailers were a way for the Virginia-based Public Advocate of the United States, which has been designated as an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC, to insert itself into the 2012 Colorado Republican primaries.

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

For RMGO, and NAGR, the mailings were a part of a larger attack against the candidates, alleges the SPLC.

“The organizations came together to use the topic of LGBT rights as a polarizing topic to advance their own agendas,” the SPLC said, in a statement on Wednesday.

“This scheme not only shows the utter disregard these groups have for private property, but also the hatred and discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people must still face in society,” said Anjali Nair, SPLC staff attorney. “There should be no doubt that we will aim to ensure everyone is held accountable for their involvement in this attack against innocent people.”

The SPLC also sought to add as defendants Dudley Brown, founder and executive director of RMGO and executive vice president of the NAGR, as well as Lucius O’Dell and Andrew Brown, employees of the National Association for Gun Rights.

Public Advocate was named as a defendant when the lawsuit was originally filed in September 2012.

Dudley Brown proposed the mailers in an April 2012 email to Public Advocate where he described how “the gay lobby smells blood in the water, and if some pro-gay legislators don’t lose their primaries, I fear Colorado will tumble (i.e., pass legislation authorizing civil unions) in the 2013 session.”

He added: “What I propose is that PA (Public Advocate) pay for mailing. … My staff and I would do all the work, but we’d want PA to sign off, put its name on the dotted line, and pay for the mailings. I would counsel mailing slick and glossies, with the ‘two men kissing’ photo.”

The mailers featured an engagement photo that showed Edwards and Privitere kissing. In the mailers, however, the New York City skyline was removed from the background and replaced with snowy and rural backgrounds suggestive of Colorado.

In one mailer, bold words on a red background were added to the picture of the couple kissing: “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘Family Values?’” A similar mailer was used to attack House candidate Jeffrey Hare. Both candidates lost their primaries.

“It’s shocking that so many groups worked together to defile a photo that meant so much to me,” Privitere said. “I am sickened by this discovery and the depths these groups are willing to sink to attack the gay community. It’s obvious they don’t care who they hurt, just as long as they get their propaganda out.”

The couple has received hate messages since the mailers were produced. Internet postings have said that the couple deserves to go to hell and to be killed, and that any children they may have would be better off dead.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, charges that the defendants misappropriated the likeness and personalities of the couple. It also charges that they infringed on photographer Kristina Hill’s exclusive right to the photo, which is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

This isn’t the first time Public Advocate, based in Falls Church, Va., has attacked the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. A fundraising letter asked readers to “imagine a world where the police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys in the streets.” The group has even compared marriage equality to bestiality by staging a “Man-Donkey Mock Wedding Ceremony.”

A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here.

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