This Couple's Wedding Photo Was Turned into an Anti-Gay Political Smear Ad

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"I tell you what – I never saw that coming, would you?" wrote Brian Edwards. Well, we wouldn't have. But then again, no one--gay or straight--really expects their wedding pictures will end up in a political smear campaign arguing that your wedding is immoral. What happened to Brian is pretty wretched, and it actually involves a GOP Colorado senate race involving Rep. Randy Baumgardner and Sen. Jean White --miles and miles removed from New Jersey where Edwards and his husband Tom Privitere make their home.  

You see, Baumgardner and White were in a heated political race for Colorado's Senate District 8. And like politics on the bigger scale, it got nasty (Baumgardner ended up beating White). Nasty enough that an outside group, the conservative, Virginia-based Public Advocate of the United States is involved in creating and funding anti-White mailers, by painting her as pro-gay. Despite its neutral-sounding name, Public Advocate is actually designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, thanks in part to its president Eugene Delgaudio, who has never been shy in declaring his anti-gay stance.  

White has a gay niece and gay nephew, and voted last year to allow same-sex Colorado couples the right to civil unions reports the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels. And those are the reasons why Public Advocate targeted White. This is the ad they mailed out, which voters received on Monday: 

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Not cool. Not just for the its anti-gay stance and terrible photoshop, but the image used is in fact an unauthorized, copyrighted photo of Edwards and Privitere on their wedding day. Here's the original version, by photographer Kristina Hill

Edwards did not find out about about the anti-gay mailer and their use of his photo until Wednesday night. Edwards wrote on his blog called The Gay Wedding Experience:  

First off – I want to share what this picture means to me. It represents my first home away from home, my beloved NYC, which at the time this image was taken (2 years ago) did not allow same sex couples to marry. It represents my longterm relationship with my best friend, my partner, and now husband — the love we share and obstacles we have overcome. It is a reminder of the happiness I felt the day he proposed to me and of the excitement I had all throughout our engagement. It represents hope and it represents love. Or at least it did…

And now? "Now I see it faded and brown with a big red, blood-emulating slash across our bodies." wrote Edwards. "It cuts us in half just below our hearts. How do I feel? I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid."

According to the Denver Post, Edwards and Privitere hired lawyers. And photographer Kristina Hill, who took the original photos, told The Atlantic Wire that the Professional Photographers of America are in the process of assisting her with the copyright issue. "To see an image, taken with that intent being used in the way it was used is heart-breaking for me," she wrote on her personal blog

The Denver Post also spoke with Public Advocate's president Eugene Delgaudio about the use, and this is what he told them:

We are a non-profit and make no money from any photos, postings, references, parodies, street theater or educational materials. Other groups make fair use of our materials or 2,000 photos from our website under these broad principles of political education and we acknowledge a limited use of many of our own materials, by other groups, under parody, some fairly strong critical attacks from our political opposition on our efforts as part of a robust debate.

No, that doesn't really answer the question of intent and the seemingly malicious intent to ruin someone's wedding photo. And we don't really see how "since everyone is using our material, we're totally justified in photoshopping and manipulating the wedding photos of this random gay couple, who have nothing to do with us or the groups we don't like" excuse either. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.