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Gay dads win case against rightwingers who used their son’s photo on an anti-surrogacy flyer

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An Italian anti-LGBTQ+ political party has been ordered to pay the equivalent of $10,000 U.S. to a gay Canadian couple after it used a photo of their family in a campaign against surrogacy.

In 2014, an emotional photo went viral that captured the moment Frank Nelson and BJ Barone met their newborn son, Milo. Taken by Lindsay Foster, it appears to have taken place seconds after Milo was born. The two men embrace both each other and the baby with looks of intense love and devotion on their faces.

Two years later, the Brothers of Italy party (Fratelli d’Italia) used the photo in an anti-surrogacy campaign. The ad declares: “He can never say Mom. The rights that need to be defended are those of the child.”

But while the couple was ultimately victorious in its lawsuit, the photographer was not so lucky. Foster sued for copyright infringement, but her case was thrown out. As such, she has been ordered to pay all of the court fees for the Brothers of Italy.

As a small business owner, the costs would have added up to months’ worth of work. But a friend of hers started a GoFundMe campaign to help her with the costs, and her goal was reached.

In a message to all who donated, Foster expressed her “sincere gratitude.”

“I must admit that this has spread some much-needed light on a dark and unfortunate situation when it comes to Copyright Infringement and the Italian Judge’s ruling after 7 years,” she wrote.

“I wish my story was different. I wish I was currently in the position of telling everyone I fought for my clients and their photo and WON, knowing I did everything I could to protect what wasn’t the Fratelli D’italia’s image to take and use. But here I am having to pay the court costs for losing against, who is now, Italy’s Prime Minister. It just seems so unreal to me.”

Foster added that the Brothers of Italy are appealing the victory by Barone and Nelson. She said she has chosen not to appeal. “As much as I hate giving up, I cannot afford the possibility of having to pay double what I already owe if I was to lose again.”

The Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni was elected prime minister in 2022. She is the most far-right leader of Italy since fascist Benito Mussolini led Italy during World War II. She is also the first woman to be prime minister of the country.

Meloni made anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric a cornerstone of her campaign for office. She opposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt as well as marriage equality, calling civil unions “good enough” for LGBTQ+ couples.

As a member of parliament, Meloni pushed for a law to make surrogacy a “universal crime” in response to same-sex couples working with surrogates abroad.

More recently, as part of its crackdown on the rights of same-sex parents, the Italian government began retroactively stripping same-sex parents of their legal connection to their children.

While same-sex civil unions have been legal in the country since 2016, same-sex couples do not have the right to adopt, thanks in part to opposition from the Catholic Church. Surrogacy remains illegal in Italy and there are restrictions that prevent the adoption of “stepchildren” by one parent. Medically assisted reproduction, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), is only available to heterosexual couples.

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