WASHINGTON – A gay couple featured without their permission in an Internet advertisement criticizing the AARP (search) sued the ad's producer on Wednesday, alleging libel and invasion of privacy.
The ad was produced by USA Next (search), a conservative group that supports creating personal accounts within Social Security and has aggressively criticized the AARP, which disagrees about the accounts.
The text below read, "The REAL AARP Agenda." When viewers clicked on the ad, which ran on the American Spectator Web site, it took them to the USA Next home page.
The men in the tuxedos were Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen of Portland, Ore., who are furious that a photo of them was used to promote a conservative agenda.
"Richard Raymen and Steven Hansen did not consent to serve as models for a homophobic and mean-spirited campaign for a political group with whose views they strongly disagree," according to the complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The lawsuit seeks $25 million in damages.
The ad was meant to demonstrate that AARP is out of touch with Americans, said Charlie Jarvis (search), chairman of USA Next. He said that AARP supports gay marriage, citing a position taken by an Ohio chapter, and said AARP has not worked to support veterans.
U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton heard arguments Wednesday on a motion seeking a temporary restraining order preventing the group from using the photo. He did not make an immediate ruling.
The plaintiffs argue that the juxtaposition of their photo with the crossed-out photo of a soldier suggests they are "unpatriotic American citizens who do not support the United States military while our nation is at war."
The photo in question was taken by the Portland (Ore.) Tribune on March 3, 2004, the day Multnomah Country began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Those marriages are now in legal limbo.
A consultant hired by USA Next, Mark Montini, took the photo from the Portland Tribune's Web site. He acknowledged to the newspaper last week that he did not buy the rights to use it.
Messages left Wednesday with Montini were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Jarvis said Wednesday that he believed the rights to the photograph had been obtained properly when he put up the ad. He also accused the plaintiffs of using the advertisement to try and raise money for the Democratic National Committee.