Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere, a New Jersey couple married in 2010, were stunned - and irate - to find themselves on an anti-gay political ad campaign.
The photo of the two men had been posted innocuously on Edwards' personal blog and was originally set against the backdrop of the N.Y. City skyline.
A doctored version shows the gay couple standing in a Colorado setting and was used in a political ad to attack a Republican who supported civil unions:
The tagline for the attack ad, which was sponsored by Public Advocate of the United States, was: "State Sen. Jean White's Idea of 'Family Values?'"
White later lost the primary.
Now, with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the duo and photographer Kristina Hill are all threatening to sue the organization behind the ad and its president, Eugene Delgaudio, if they do not stop using the photo.
"Our initial reaction was complete shock," said Privitere, 37, who lives with Edwards in Montclair, N.J. The couple has been together for 12 years."We were heartbroken to see that our picture that was taken to represent love and family, and our values, and to share with other LGBT couples, was used for complete opposite purposes to induce fear and spread hate and bigotry," he said.
Public Advocate, based in Falls Church, Va., is on the SPLC's 2011 hate group list. It never had permission to use the photo, unsurprisingly.
Delgaudio, who is head of the board of supervisors for Loudon County in Virginia, told ABC News that he has not yet received SPLC's letter.
He is "looking into the matter" and searching whether or not we have the photo," he said. "I have not commented on this ever and I have no statements on it ... Someone could do this without my permission, but I am working on it."