The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages for Public Advocate’s alleged copyright violation and the use of Privitere’s and Edwards’s likenesses without permission. It also describes the “mental distress and anguish” that the couple has suffered as a result of the alleged theft and misuse of the photograph.
The complaint follows an outcry after news of the campaign mailers first became public in July — the most recent controversy involving Public Advocate, which was designated a hate group by the SPLC this year. The organization, led by Delgaudio (R-Sterling) since 1981, has a long history of controversial mass mailings, publications and street theater aimed at protesting what Delgaudio calls a “radical homosexual” agenda.
Asked Tuesday about the pending lawsuit, Delgaudio said by e-mail, “I’m looking into that.” He declined to comment further and did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Of more than 1,000 organizations in the United States that are designated as hate groups by the SPLC, Public Advocate is the only one thought to be led by an elected public official, according to officials with the civil rights group.
“Our clients have been devastated by this heinous misappropriation of what once reflected a beautiful moment,” Christine Sun, the SPLC’s deputy legal director, said in a conference call with reporters. “We hope this lawsuit sends the strong message that hate groups may only promote their ideologies within the parameters of the law, and that they must answer for their actions when they do not.”
The mailer targeted two legislative candidates in Colorado, including state Sen. Jean White, a supporter of civil unions who was defeated in the Republican primary.
The original photograph, taken by Hill in 2010, showed the couple kissing before the New York skyline. But in one altered image distributed by Public Advocate, snow-covered pine trees replaced the city setting, and a bright red banner with the words “State Senator Jean White’s Idea of ‘Family Values?’ ” cut across the couple’s chests.
“That red slash demonstrates the hate that some have toward our community, and it speaks volumes,” Edwards said Wednesday. “And that is why we are here today, to take back our personal image and to take a stand against such vile and disgusting actions.”
According to the lawsuit, Edwards and Privitere have feared for their safety because of the incident and the resulting publicity.