Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio has declared victory in the federal case involving his controversial advocacy organization and its inflammatory campaign mailer, but the plaintiff and representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center say the matter isn't quite over.
While Delgaudio has settled, with his conservative Public Advocate of the United States group agreeing to pay $2,500 to a Brooklyn photographer who took an engagement photo for a gay couple, that photographer, Kristina Hill, is still seeking relief from other defendants in the lawsuit, including the National Association for Gun Rights, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and several people involved with those organizations, according to the SPLC, which is providing counsel to the plaintiffs.
The years-long case revolves around a doctored image of a same-sex couple kissing sent out by the Delgaudio-founded Public Advocate of the United States. Delgaudio's organization used a picture of a New Jersey couple, Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, for “traditional family” political fliers distributed in Colorado state elections in 2012. The mailers used the couple’s wedding photo and altered it without permission from the men or the photographer, Hill.
The original picture features the couple holding hands and kissing with New York City in the backdrop. The men posted the image on their wedding blog. One of the altered versions uses the same image of Edwards and Privitere but changes the backdrop to a snowy setting with pine trees and the verbiage, “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘Family Values?’” A Public Advocate return address was included on the flier.
|At top is the original photo of the New Jersey couple taken by Kristina Hill. Below is one of the campaign fliers sent out by Eugene Delgaudio's Public Advocate of the United States conservative advocacy group.|
Delgaudio announced the financial settlement and declared "victory for America" in an email last week, noting that “no payment whatsoever was made to the two homosexuals, who agreed to drop any appeal of the decision against them.”
Delgaudio's statement continued, "Our use of photo in the mailings was intended to expose the candidates who were trying to hide their support for homosexual marriage. We succeeded in that effort, and our use of a photograph owned by this photographer was unintentional. We felt no need to continue the case once the claims by the two homosexuals who sued us was dismissed."
"Of course, we had no desire to offend these two homosexual men,” Delgaudio said, “but once they posted on the Internet a picture of their 'wedding,' they entered into the public debate over homosexual marriage, and it was perfectly reasonable for Public Advocate to use the photograph.”
The suit was filed in federal court in September 2012 by the couple, Hill and the SPLC, a civil rights organization that has labeled Public Advocate of the United States an anti-gay “hate group.”
“The payment doesn’t end the case,” an SPLC attorney, Anjali Nair, said. “Hill’s claim is still pending against the remaining defendants, and she continues to seek a declaration from the court that defendants unlawfully infringed her copyright in the photograph and any other relief the Court deems proper.”
In March, U.S. District Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of Colorado issued a ruling “dismissing the claim that the likeness and personalities of Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere were misappropriated,” according Nair.
“The court ruled that the First Amendment shields the defendants’ conduct, no matter how despicable, and no matter if it harmed the couple,” he said.
June has been a victorious month for the firebrand Delgaudio. Earlier this week, a judge in Loudoun County dismissed a recall petition attempting to remove Delgaudio from the county's Board of Supervisors over alleged misuse of public assets.
This story has been updated from an earlier version.