By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A New Jersey gay couple sued a conservative group for copyright violation on Wednesday claiming the organization used their images in negative political campaign advertisements without their permission.
Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed suit against the Virginia-based Public Advocate of the United States, which paid for fliers used to target two Republican candidates in Colorado this year.
The couple's engagement photo, which featured the pair kissing with the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline in the background, was altered and used in campaign mailers.
"This case is about the defilement of a beautiful moment," the Southern Poverty Law Center argued in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
Kristina Hill, the wedding photographer who took the 2010 picture, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Hill said Public Advocate violated her copyright claim to the photo by using it without her permission.
Edwards, Privitere and Hill are seeking unspecified monetary damages.
A representative for Public Advocate could not be reached for comment.
Christine Sun of the Southern Poverty Law Center said she did not know how Public Advocate obtained the photo, but said it could have been pulled from Edwards' blog.
"The important thing here is the use of Tom and Brian's likeness and the photograph itself were wholly gratuitous," Sun said. "Public Advocate could have just purchased a stock photo of a gay couple and that would have had the same effect."
In the campaign mailers, the photo was altered to remove the New York background, according to the lawsuit. One targeted State Senator Jean White, a Republican who supported a civil unions bill that was rejected by the Colorado Legislature.
The mailer showed the couple kissing, snow-covered trees in the background and the words "State Senator Jean White's Idea of 'Family Values'?" White lost the primary.
In a flier targeting Jeffrey Hare, a Republican candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives, the same image of the couple was superimposed on a different rural landscape. Hare also lost the primary.
(Reporting By Keith Coffman; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Stacey Joyce)