A moving photograph of a gay couple meeting their newborn son for the first time is being used in Europe to promote anti-gay politicians. The parents, and the photographer, are fighting back.
The photo of the Canadian couple, BJ Barone and Frank Nelson, went viral in 2014. Photographer Lindsay Foster posted the image to Facebook in July of that year, where it was shared more than 10,000 times and garnered more than 50,000 Likes. Media outlets picked up the image as a symbol of love.
Now, however, the image is being shared in anti-surrogacy campaigns in Ireland and Italy. A few weeks ago, Mary Fitzgibbon, who is running for office as an Independent in Ireland, posted this message to her Facebook page.
Fitzgibbon, according to her website, believes in "standing up for integrity [and] life equality," and "supporting the family, fathers, mothers & children," among other things.
According to TheJournal.ie, an Irish news outlet, Fitzgibbon has shared the image a few times on Facebook, and tweeted it along with the words, "A motherless child is the prize – the buying of children.” Her Twitter account is private, but her bio — #Love #LifeEquality Mothers & Fathers Matter to Children #No2Surrogacy — tracks with the comments attributed to her.
The image is also being used by an Italian political party to further an anti-gay message.
A poster using the photo has also been making the rounds in Italy, which has been going through a bitter debate about LGBT rights. The poster is branded with the logo of Fratelli d’Italia, an extreme right-wing political party with links to neo-fascism. “Lui non porta’ mai dire mamma. I diritta da difendere sono quelli del bambino,” it says, which roughly translates to: “He’ll never have the right to be called mom. Children have the right to be defended.”
In a radio interview, Nelson explained that he and Barone were getting tweet's from Barone's family in Italy about how the image was being used.
"We were often sent lovely stuff," Nelson said, "people using our image in Ted Talks or in very positive ways. We're always happy to see that. We never imagined in a million years that a photo of such raw emotion would be used in a negative way."
Barone and Nelson are, understandably, upset by how the image is being used. “It was such a positive, happy moment in our life," Barone told the Daily Xtra, adding, "It’s just really weird how they twisted it around and now they’re using it negatively."
In a conversation with BuzzFeed, Barone added that it's troubling to be used to further a cause you don't agree with. "They are campaigning that every child NEEDS a mother… and they are using our picture to support their political agenda that we are denying our son Milo the right to a mother. Obviously this is a something we do not support or agree with!”
Foster, the photographer, has also taken a stance against her image being used in this way. She told BuzzFeed, "I love Frankie and BJ so much and I am fighting right along with them… We are considering take action [against] those in Italy who are using my/their image."
She posted a statement in support of the couple to her Facebook page.
On Twitter, Barone also said that he, Nelson, and Foster are considering legal action.
Others have expressed support for the family online.
And some have tweeted at Fitzgibbon with #WeAreFamily to reconsider her stance:
The Huffington Post reports that Barone sent a message to Fitzgibbon's fans, writing "thank you for giving us this opportunity to teach our son that people may not agree with our family, that people have different views than us, that people have different religious beliefs than us. And that's OK." He added, "it gives us the opportunity to show our son to be tolerant of others, to respect others, and not to judge others just because they don't like the fact that he has two dads."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.