In the final weeks before Ireland votes on marriage equality, groups opposed to same-sex marriage are ramping up their efforts in the face of cautious optimism from equality supporters that citizens will vote yes on extending the freedom to marry May 22.
Earlier this month, an anti-equality group called Mothers & Fathers Matter rolled out a new poster featuring an opposite-sex couple kissing their newborn child, with the words "Children Deserve a Mother and a Father. Vote No."
But the U.K. family whose portrait was used had not been consulted about its use — and now they're speaking out because they support marriage equality.
"We were surprised and upset to see that the photo was being used as part of a campaign with which we do not agree," said the family in a statement Tuesday. "No one can convince us that lifelong unions of so many loving same-sex couples here in the UK and in Ireland, are inferior to heterosexual unions, and it is important to us that our many gay friends know that we feel this way. Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality has no place in the 21st century. If we were residents of Ireland, not the UK, we would vote Yes for marriage equality."
The family issued the statement through Amnesty International after Irish comedian Adam Hills posted a photo of the antigay poster on Facebook, noting that he knew the family pictured and that they were "appalled that their faces are being used … to promote something they wholeheartedly disagree with."
The family, which has not been identified by name, acknowledged that the photo used in the poster was taken by a family friend last year to build the photographer's portfolio. Part of the agreement — in which no money was exchanged — was that the photographer would be allowed to upload the images to a stock photo service, where images can be purchased for general use.
"The poster uses a stock image to present a particular view of a family," said the family's statement. "Well, we are the real family in that photograph. So for the record, here is what we think: This family believes that every child deserves to be loved and cherished. This family believes that everyone has a right to marry the person they love regardless of their gender. This family believes that EVERY family matters. And this family would vote Yes."
Mothers & Fathers Matter has reportedly offered to meet with the family to have a "dialogue," but the family members not yet decided whether they will accept that offer, the statement indicates.
Although there are generally no limits on what stock photos can be used to portray, this incident in Ireland is reminiscent of a similar story in Virginia, where an anti-LGBT organization last year used a stock photo of a man, portrayed as twins, to proclaim that "nobody is born gay."
As it turns out, the model for the stock photo is not only not a twin but is also an openly gay man from South Africa. After he reached out to local media to state his views, he partnered with U.S.-based nonprofit Planting Peace to create a counter-ad that mimicked the antigay billboard's format but sent a message of pride and acceptance.