WASHINGTON -- New Jersey residents Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere did not expect their engagement photo to turn up in in an anti-gay mailer put out in Colorado by a Virginia Republican official who once criticized Florida pirate festivals for their "invasion" by "radical homosexuals" and has been the staunchest opponent of plans to extend D.C.'s Metrorail system into Northern Virginia's Loudoun County exurbs.
"How do I feel? I'm in shock and I'm angry and I'm hurt and I'm flabbergasted and I'm livid," wrote Edwards on his blog, www.thegayweddingexperience.com.
The Republican official is Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), president of the right-wing, anti-gay advocacy group Public Advocate Of The United States.
The group's website encourages consumers not to buy "Cheerios Chex Cinnamon Toast Crunch Fiber One Kix Lucky Charms Monsters Total Trix Wheaties" because "General Mills has publicly come out in opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota." Another recent website entry lambastes "Homosexual Comic Books Propaganda."
The mailer also has an anti-gay bent. It shows an altered version of Edwards' and Privitere's engagement photo, taken by photographer Kristina Hill, in which the two men kiss in front of the New York City skyline. New York's been taken away, replaced with snow, evergreen trees, and text reading "State Senator Jean White's Idea Of 'Family Values?'" on one version of the mailer, "Jeffrey Hare's Vision For Weld County?" on the other.
White is Colorado State Sen. Jean White (R-Hayden), a supporter of civil unions, who lost her primary race a week ago to an opponent who had an unregistered sex offender living in his home. Anti-abortion state House candidate Jeffrey Hare came out against civil unions and also lost his primary last week.
Delgaudio told The Denver Post, which originally reported on the mailer, that his use of the photo was justified:
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 2000 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.
Delgaudio gave The Loudoun Times a slightly different message:
When reached by phone Monday, Delgaudio said he can't verify he sent out the mailer, but he's "checking on it." Said the Sterling supervisor, "I don't have time to respond to every allegation groups bring against me."
Public Advocate of the United States, which is not registered as a 501(c)(3), reported $1,071,632 in gross receipts in 2010, the last year for which information is available, according to IRS data available on GuideStar. The organization has been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Edwards says on his blog that the couple is considering taking legal action. Others, concerned about the future uses of their own photos, are considering the mailer's intellectual property implications.
Privatere told The Denver Post his thoughts on the mailers' silver lining:
"I think it's cool because it allows us to fight the fight," Privitere said. "I'm so sick of being treated like a second-class citizen."
CORRECTION, 10:59 a.m.: This article originally stated that Public Adocate of the United States is not registered as a 501(c)(4).