In June, New Jersey couple Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere found that their engagement photo had been used in an anti-gay attack ad in Colorado by Eugene A. Delgaudio and the organization he runs, the Public Advocate of the United States, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The couple, represeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has issued a cease-and-desist letter to Delgaudio. The ad was an attempt to make Tom and Brian look scary, by manipulating the photo background and adding ominous words. The problem is, Tom and Brian are not scary. Brian wrote the following reflection that demonstrates how "not scary" they are as a couple.
Tom and I are your average couple.
We wake up each morning and hit the snooze button as often as we can so that we can sneak an extra bit of snuggle time. We stay out of each other’s way in the bathroom and help each other make the bed before we kiss one another goodbye for the day.
We call each other on the phone just to check in and say “I love you.” When we arrive back home, we greet one another with a kiss and an embrace. We have little games we play, nicknames we’ve donned and voices for one another when we are alone. We spontaneously purchase gifts just because we think the other might like it.
We have our special holiday traditions for Christmas and Thanksgiving. We take care of one another when we are sick. We make each other laugh and we hold one another other when we cry. We support each other. We fight. We make up. We kiss each other goodnight and we do it all over again the next day. We are just an average couple.
I first met my husband the summer of 2000. I was in college working towards my bachelor’s degree when I took a job as a waiter at Jekyll and Hyde Pub in Greenwich Village to make some extra money.
Tom was an actor there and the director of entertainment. He used to walk around and make people laugh all day. I was immediately attracted to his humor. He was attracted to my skinny waist and Southern accent. Like any couple that meets at work, we went out with a large group of friends and eventually our attraction grew. By May the following year, we decided to be more serious and started going steady.
Eight short years later on a flight back to New York City from North Carolina, Tom and I decided to become domestic partners. I remember having a discussion like, “Just so you know – this is NOT marriage. This is just so we have a little more security should we need it.”
Tom agreed. We went down to city hall in March of 2009. Afterwards we both felt very different and were excited to be something more than just “boyfriends.” Tom proposed marriage to me the following December.
Tom and I, and our friends Vinnie Costa and Gerry Deiffenbach, had been performing variations of a cabaret show for about eight years. It was during this show that Tom decided to pop the question. The crowd consisted of about 75 of our closest friends and family. Towards the end of the night, Tom got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I was completely surprised. It was such a beautiful, funny, romantic moment. I will never forget it.
A month after we became engaged, we started planning our wedding. We decided to have the civil marriage in New Haven, Conn., on Sept. 7, 2010, and our wedding ceremony in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Oct. 17 that same year.
We created our blog, The Gay Wedding Experience, so that we could chronicle our journey down the aisle. Like many couples, we have friends and family living all over the country. Our blog was a perfect way to share our planning process, images and other information with them. We also hoped that other LGBT couples might benefit from our wedding planning stories since, at that time, there was not a whole lot of information on the Web for engaged LGBT couples.
Like every engaged, lovesick couple, we wanted to shout our love from the rooftops and share our images with friends and family. We wanted people to be as excited for us as we were for ourselves. We had a magical wedding chock full of memories that we, like most couples, will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Marriages are really amazing celebrations. A friend of mine once told me that humans are on this planet for one purpose – to experience love. Planning my own wedding has transformed the way I will forever experience weddings in the future. Images from that time in my life are, like all couples, my most precious keepsakes.
We surround our home with images from that special time in our lives; images shot by the extraordinary photographer Kristina Hill of Kristina Hill Photography. They are daily reminders of our love and commitment. They are as sacred to us as our parent’s wedding images were to them, and their parents before them.
Recently, we learned that one of our engagement photos was taken from our wedding blog and used in anti-gay attack ads in Colorado by the Public Advocate of the United States, an organization designated as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Kristina’s original photo shows us holding hands and kissing in front of the New York City skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge to our left.
Photo courtesy of Kristina Hill Photography
The hijacked image has our bodies plopped into a snowy forest backdrop with a blood-red banner across our chests with the words “Senator Jean White’s Idea of “Family Values?”
Manipulated Photo by Public Advocate of the United States
Like any couple, we were shocked, angry and distraught to see our image used in a way that targeted the very thing we hold most dear – our family. We still are.
On July 11, we took a significant step in reclaiming our photo and the memories it represents. Christine Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Delgaudio on our behalf. In addition to his cooperation, we want a public apology from Delgaudio and a promise that he will never do this to LGBT couples again.
We are supporting one another through this tumultuous time. One day, when all of this is just a bad memory, Tom and I will purchase our first home together. Perhaps we will have a child together and experience all the joys in parenting. Eventually, we’ll look in the mirror and realize that we have grown old together…just like every other normal couple.
We live, we love and we leave a mark. Your average couple can make a difference in this world. Here’s hoping we do.