A gay northern New Jersey couple said they are considering legal action if a conservative think tank doesn’t stop using their wedding photo as part of an attack ad campaign in a Colorado state legislative race.
Brian Edwards, a university administrator from Montclair, N.J., received an email from a friend on June 27 with a link to a political advertisement that pictured Edwards and his then-fiancé, Tom Privitere, kissing on the Brooklyn waterfront. In the background, the East River can be seen, as well as the scenic Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline.
The photo that Edwards saw, however, was radically altered: Instead of the city skyline, the backdrop showed a snowy forest scene and read, “State Senator Jean White’s Idea of ‘Family Values?’”
After a bit of digging, Edwards discovered that a Washington, D.C.-based conservative group called Public Advocate created the mailers, he told Metro.
On its website, Public Advocate lists its opposition to “same sex marriage and the furtherance of so-called ‘Gay Rights.’”
Sen. Jean White is running as the incumbent in a Republican primary for a state Senate seat in northwest Colorado. White voted last year and again in 2012 in support of a state bill that allows same-sex civil unions.
Except the New Jersey couple had never even heard of that particular Senate race, much less authorized their image to be used in attack ads.
“I was shocked,” Edwards said. “I rushed home and quickly Googled 'Jean White attack ad.'"
He said the couple did post the image to their own personal wedding blog, The Gay Wedding Experience. But it was never meant to be altered, especially for an anti-gay marriage campaign.
“The original image was taken to convey love and family but was used for the complete opposite effect,” Privitere told Metro. “It was used for a cause we fight vehemently against every day; we were hit below the belt.”
The photographer who snapped the original photo, Kristina Hill, also never gave permission for the image to be altered or used.
The couple contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has reportedly listed the Public Advocate as a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a cease-and-desist letter to Public Advocate on July 11.
The couple is still waiting on a response to the letter from Eugene Delgaudio, the president of Public Advocate. Delgaudio also never responded when Metro questioned him repeatedly about the mailer.