Anti-Gay Flier Prompts Lawsuit After Use Of Private Engagement Photo

An anti-gay flier that used a private engagement photo to advertise its message has led to a lawsuit being filed against the group that distributed the mailer.

When Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards posed in front of the Brooklyn Bridge for their engagement photo in 2010, they couldn’t have anticipated that the resulting image would be used on an anti-gay mailer.

Yet just months after it was taken, the picture of Privitere and Edwards was appropriated by “American Family Values” organization Public Advocate of the United States. The nonprofit group, which vehemently opposes same-sex marriage, changed the background of the image before slapping it on two different anti-gay fliers. Said leaflets were then distributed in Colorado.

Privitere, Edwards, and photographer Kristina Hill are now suing the bigoted organization, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Speaking to NBC on Monday, Edwards stated:

“We want to take back the beautiful moment in our lives that was reflected in our engagement photo before it was hijacked. We also … want to take a stand for others who might be similarly targeted in the future.”

The couple and the photographer are seeking a court order that says Public Advocate violated the law through its allegedly unauthorized use of the photo.

Privitere and Edwards met in New York in 2000 and became engaged in December 2009 before marrying in 2010 in a civil ceremony in Connecticut. Privitere told NBC:

“All that we did was what any other couple would do to mark their engagement and have these photos taken for family and friends to share our joy and our excitement and help people (see) what path we were taking toward our wedding. It was a great, great day for us.”

A friend informed the couple about the anti-gay flier in June 2011. Edwards accused Public Advocate of using the image to spread a “message of hate” during Republican primary races for the Colorado statehouse.

One of the mailers was aimed at State Senator Jean White, who backed a bill supporting the introduction of same-sex civil unions. Across the image of a kissing Privitere and Edwards were the words: “State Senator Jean White’s Idea of ‘Family Values?’ ”

The couple’s attorney, Christine Sun of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said:

“The use of Tom and Brian’s likenesses, or of Kristina’s copyrighted photo, was wholly gratuitous. Public Advocate could have just paid for a stock photo of a gay couple kissing but instead Public Advocate decided to take this very personal photo of this happy moment and use it to attack gay people […] the doctrine of fair use is not intended to allow people to use copyrighted work just because it’s cheaper than paying for something.”