Two gun rights groups worked on political attack mailers in Colorado that showed a gay couple from New Jersey kissing, according to claims in a federal lawsuit Wednesday.
The mailers were used in two Colorado Republican primaries last year and cited the issue of civil unions to caution voters against particular candidates who supported legislation providing gay couples protections similar to marriage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center sued last year on behalf of the New Jersey couple and the photographer, saying the image was used without their permission, and named Virginia-based Public Advocate of the United States as a defendant because its name was on the fliers.
SPLC said in a motion Wednesday that it wants to add Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the National Association for Gun Rights as defendants.
In addition, the SPLC said it wants to add two employees of the national association and Dudley Brown, who is a leader for both groups, as defendants. The center says emails show Brown proposed the mailers using the photo of two men kissing and said his staff would do the work for the mailers.
Brown didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Public Advocate of the United States has said the lawsuit should be dismissed and that it was engaging in political speech protected by the First Amendment.
SPLC said Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, who were featured in the photo, have been the subject of hate messages since the mailers were produced. The couple had posted the photo on their blog.
"It's shocking that so many groups worked together to defile a photo that meant so much to me," Privitere said in a written statement. "I am sickened by this discovery and the depths these groups are willing to sink to attack the gay community. It's obvious they don't care who they hurt, just as long as they get their propaganda out."