A gay couple alleges that a group run by Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio doctored their engagement photo and used it to promote its anti-gay agenda.
Delgaudio founded and runs Public Advocate of the United States. The nonprofit promotes his conservative and anti-gay agenda and often stirs up controversy. This time, it might have also broken the law.
In late March, Public Advocate of the United States was officially dubbed a hate group by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally renowned civil rights group. Delgaudio declined to comment about the move at the time.
"This action in stealing a photo and misusing it is beyond the pale," says Evan Macbeth, Chair, Loudoun County Democratic Committee. "I cannot imagine someone taking my engagement photos and misusing it to decry my civil rights."
The controversy, first reported locally by the Loudoun Times Mirror, surrounds an engagement photo of a gay couple from New Jersey.
Delgaudio's group allegedly doctored it. The words on a blood red stripe read "State Senator Jean White's idea of family values?" It was used in a Delgaudio mailer for a Colorado political campaign.
Today Delgaudio hinted that it might have come from someone else.
"Other people take copies of our photographs since we are a nonprofit, and they do share things around, and that's how things get around," he says.
And he said he will investigate what happened.
Asked by ABC7's Ben Eisler if it concerns him, Delgaudio says, "The fact that I have to look into it is not a problem. I'll look into it."
"Does it concern you at all that this was found in your literature?" asks Eisler.
"We routinely send out mailings," Delgaudio says.
Supervisor Delgaudio has lead an anti-gay campaign for years. Recently he described airport safety pat down procedures as part of the homosexual agenda, and earlier this year the Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally renowned civil rights group, designated Delgaudio's organization as a hate group.
And the couple in the photo is considering filing a claim for copyright infringement.
Loudoun Democrats called on local Republicans to stand up against Delgaudio.
"He does not represent Loudoun County as Loudoun County deserves to be represented," Macbeth says.
"We're looking into copyright claims for the photographer, and also state law tort claims on behalf of Brian and Tom," Christine Sun, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Washington Post. "That would include misappropriation of image and infliction of emotional distress."