It was of little surprise today when a gay couple targeted by Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgauio filed a federal lawsuit in Colorado against Delgaudio’s nonprofit organization, the Public Advocate of the United States.
In June, Public Advocate of the United States sent out political mailers in Colorado for a state Senate race that used an altered image of the couple, Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, kissing. Verbiage was added questioning, “State Senator Jean White’s idea of family values?”
White, a supporter of civil unions, was squaring off against an incumbent in a Republican primary.
The announcement of the lawsuit came Wednesday on a conference call with Privitere, Edwards, photographer Kristina Hill and a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group assisting in the suit.
“My name is Brian Edwards, and my husband, Tom Privitere, and I are here today to take back the beautiful moment in our lives that was reflected in our engagement photo before it was hijacked by a hate group,” Edwards said on the call.
The original image’s copyright belongs to Hill, who shot the celebratory photos of the New Jersey couple.
The lawsuit lists Edwards, Privitere and Hills as plaintiffs and Public Advocate as the defendant. Representatives from the SPLC undersigned the complaint, which alleges the couple’s photo was stolen and misappropriated. “Now, instead of representing love, the photo represents the hatred and discrimination that gay people must still endure in our society,” Christine Sun, an SPLC attorney, said.
“We’re asking primarily for a few things: one is a declaration that Public Advocate’s acts were illegal, and also we are asking for monetary damages which will be proven as filed,” Sun said.
The engagement photo was stolen off the couple’s personal blog, according to Edwards.
SPLC sent Delgaudio a cease and desist letter in July. Sun said they did not receive a response from Delgaudio (R-Sterling) or anyone from Public Advocate.
Delgaudio has been largely silent in addressing the charges head on. In June, he said he doesn’t have time to respond “to every allegation groups bring against” him.
In March, the Times-Mirror was among the first to report Delgaudio’s organization’s listing as an active anti-gay hate group by the SPLC, an internationally recognized civil rights non-profit . The designation was based on research compiled through hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.
According to the SPLC, “all hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
The four-term Loudoun supervisor founded Public Advocate in 1981.
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