New Jersey gay couple suing over photo in Colorado campaign mailer

Photo used to discredit GOP lawmaker

DENVER - A gay couple from New Jersey is suing a group that used their engagement photo in an attack mailer against a Republican Colorado state lawmaker who supported civil unions this year.

Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere, and their attorneys, talked about the lawsuit Wednesday outside federal court in Denver.

"It brought back feelings of bullying in my childhood, which was startling to us," Edward said. "Tom and I both cringe now when we see our engagement photo, a photo which will forever live on the Internet as a message of hate."

The Southern Poverty Law Center is filing the lawsuit on behalf of the couple against the Virginia-based Public Advocate of the United States.

The couple was originally photographed kissing with a New York City skyline as a backdrop.

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

The photo was altered and the couple was superimposed against a snowy backdrop with the words "State Senator Jean White's Idea Of 'Family Values?'"

The photo was used in mailers in a June primary election involving Republicans Jean White of Hayden and Jeff Hare of Greeley.  White was one of a handful of Republicans who supported a civil union bill that was blocked in the state House.

Both lost their primary.

7NEWS called the candidates' opponents. Rep. Randy Baumgardner said, "Myself or nobody I was involved with on my campaign had anything to do with that."

The Denver Post reported the president, Eugene Delgaudio, claimed the Public Advocate is a non-profit and made no money from the use of photographs.

"Other groups make fair use of our materials or 2,000 photos from our website under these broad principles of political education and we acknowledge a limited use of many of our own materials, by other groups, under parody, some fairly strong critical attacks from our political opposition on our efforts as part of a robust debate," he told the Post.

Edwards said he was furious about the photo being stolen and manipulated.

"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."

"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."

The SPLC has labeled Public Advocate as a hate group.

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