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The original photo
The original photo (©Kristina Hill)
That's what happened to Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere of New Jersey.

They weren't aware of it, but anti-gay activist Eugene Delgaudio of the self-anointed "Public Advocate of the United States" hate group swiped their photo off their blog The Gay Wedding Experience, which they'd posted for the enjoyment of their friends and family.

Delgaudio then used the stolen image in an anti-gay direct mailing sent out to countless Colorado residents, following an unsuccessful effort to pass LGBT civil unions there. The original is above, the altered version is below. The New York City landscape has been swapped out for a Colorado environment. It is intended to attack Republican Sen. Jean White's support for civil unions. Other lawmaker's districts were also targeted.

Delgaudio's altered photo.
Delgaudio's altered photo.
Delgaudio's theft attracted a good deal of press attention last month, notably from The Advocate and The Denver Post.

Now it seems he's also attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center who has sent a cease and desist letter to Delgaudio (pdf). From their press release, Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC says:

“Delgaudio’s use of Brian and Tom’s personal photo is morally reprehensible. 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.”
More after the fold.

The photo subjects were alerted to Delgaudio's theft by friends. Brian Edwards is quoted:

“This photo represented our love and commitment and the many challenges we have overcome in order to share our lives together. 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.”
Edwards' husband Tom Privitere said:
“Knowing our image had been used to spread lies, hate and fear, contradicts the original meaning of the picture. It was used to attack what Brian and I hold dear – our lives together, our family, and marriage equality.”
The photographer, Kristina Hill, is party to SPLC's action and was horrified as well. Writing on her own blog, she said:
"I love love, I adore my clients and when I make images for them, it's my goal to document their love with creativity and honesty. It fuels me as a photographer to know these images 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. To see an image, taken with that intent being used in the way it was used is heart-breaking for me."
SPLC makes note of Delgaudio's long ugly history of anti-gay activism which includes:
  • 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 instance, 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 “requir[ing] schools to teach appalling homosexual acts ... force private and even religious schools to teach a pro-homosexual agenda. .. ram through their entire perverted vision for a homosexual America ... create a new America based on sexual promiscuity.”

Eugene Delgaudio
Eugene Delgaudio
Delgaudio for his part told The Denver Post:
“We are a non-profit and make no money from any photos, postings, references, parodies, street theater or educational materials. Other groups make fair use of our materials or 2000 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.”
Delgaudio may be registered as a non-profit, which is not to say he doesn't earn money off his hyperbolic fundraising pleas.

His tone is about as apocalyptic as such mailings get. In 2011, Delgaudio even claimed in a fundraising email to have been victim of a breaking and entering where radical homosexual assaulted him with a rock.

''[L]ate one night while sorting through pro-family petitions from supporters like you a thug crept in through a door, threw a blanket over my head and pummeled me with a rock.''
Curiously, Delgaudio did not, however file any police report about the incident.

It's a nice little scam he's running apparently. This blogger documented The Public Advocate's revenues were listed by Guidestar as totaling $1,378,199 in 2009. Nice work if you can get it, I mean, aside from all the innocent people you hurt.

Delgaudio and the Public Advocate were also the focus of a minor beltway dustup last year. The Weekly Standard assisted Delgaudio in his fundraising efforts by distributing an email to their direct mailing network that shocked many in its base vulgarity.

The email message the Standard forwarded included many lies and misinformation about the LGBT community and described Rep. Jared Polis as "an open homosexual and radical activist." It erroneously said Congress was considering legislation that would: "Exempt homosexual students from punishment for propositioning, harassing, or even sexually assaulting their classmates."

The ensuing eruption prompted publisher Terry Eastland into damage control mode, telling Politico's Dylan Byers:

"This is obviously not the sort of advertising that we would accept, nor will we accept it in the future," Eastland said. "It was just one of these cases where an ad came in, it was not fully vetted in the way it should be, and it got out."
No one at The Weekly Standard nor William Kristol ever apologized for the slander, lies and misinformation the outlet had been party to distributing, nor did they condemn the email's contents.

Anti-gay groups have been notorious for appropriating unauthorized use of materials, including photos and music. In 2011, National Organization for Marriage tried to pass off an Obama rally photo as one of their own, and in 2010 were warned by musician John Mellencamp to cease using one of his song at their events. The group fell victim to a hilarious prank when posting an unauthorized hotlink to their site in 2011.

Southern Poverty Law Center's cease and desist letter reads in part (pdf):

We write on behalf of Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, and Kristina Hill. Brian and Tom are the gay couple in the photo that “Public Advocate of the United States” (“Public Advocate”) misappropriated for use in anti-gay political attack mailers in Colorado, and Kristina is the photographer who took the photo and owns the copyright of that image. The purposes of this letter are to: 1) inform you that Tom, Brian, and Kristina have retained us to investigate their legal claims against you and Public Advocate; and 2) demand that you, “Public Advocate,” or anyone acting on your or Public Advocate’s behalf immediately cease and desist any further unauthorized use of Brian and Tom’s images and likenesses, and any further unauthorized use of Kristina’s copyrighted photos or other intellectual property.

It appears from your public statements that you knowingly and willfully misappropriated Tom and Brian’s images and Kristina’s copyrighted photo for use in your homophobic mailers against Colorado state senators. As you are certainly aware, Brian and Tom are not public figures. That photo was a deeply personal representation of their love and commitment to one another and the obstacles they overcame to share their lives together. The use of that photo of their wedding engagement and their images to attack gay couples and their relationships as not promoting “family values” was unfair, unjustifiable, and demeaning of Tom and Brian’s human dignity.

SPLC asks that Delgaudio confirm by Monday, July 23, 2012 he has ceased using the image. They also allude Delgaudio may be facing more legal action as SPLC is investigating the unauthorized use of Hill's copyrighted photo.

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 02:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Angry Gays and Daily Kos.

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