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article imageToronto dads fight back after birth photo used in anti-gay ads

By Megan Hamilton     Mar 2, 2016 in Politics
Toronto - A photo showing the touching moment when two Toronto dads met their newborn son for the first time quickly went viral when the little boy was born two years ago.
But not all of the attention it attracted has been positive.
The men were both shocked to find that same photo is being used by politicians in Europe to slam gay marriage, Global News reports.
When Frankie Nelson and BJ Barone found out that the photo was being used by Italian politicians to bash same-sex parenting, they were upset.
"It really bothered us that our photo that's all about love, acceptance and joy is now being used for anti-gay purposes and anti-surrogacy purposes," Barone said.
Barone found out about it through a cousin in Italy, but because he doesn't speak much Italian, he wasn't able to fully communicate with the political party, Brothers of Italy, or Fratelli d'Italia, CBC News reports. But that was just the start. Barone found out other political groups were also using the photo in an effort to push legislation against same-sex parenting and surrogate parents.
In Ireland, a conservative politician used the photo for more than a year to campaign for her cause.
"Never in a million years did we ever expect any publicity from this, it was a private photo," he said. "We never thought this would happen."
Lindsay Foster, who's a friend of the surrogate mom, told The Toronto Star that the image has probably been seen in every country.
Both the Brothers of Italy and Mary Fitzgibbon used the photo without permission. Fitzgibbon's platform was against surrogacy for gay parents.
"It was mostly about gay couples, men, having babies, because we're [supposedly] denying the right of the child to have a mother," Barone said. "Everything that we had stood for and we were fighting for ... gay rights and rights for fathers to have children, now these photos are being used for the exact opposite.
Foster, a photographer based in Kingston, Ontario, said she posted the images and included her watermark on her Facebook page in 2014.
By using the photo, Fitzgibbon, who did not win a seat in the Irish election, was being unfair to Frankie and BJ, Foster said.
Barone said he has been tweeting back and forth with Fitzgibbon, telling her that their little boy, Milo, "has more than enough love," even without a mom.
He has even invited her to visit.
"I said, 'you know what? We're more than happy for you to come here to Toronto so you can meet our family and see that ... a child does not need to have a mother and a father.'"
Nelson said he would also love for the critics to come visit and meet Milo.
"He's one of the happiest little boys you'll ever meet," Nelson said. "I can't see how he's missing out on anything."
Foster said she has contacted the European politicians using the photo. Now she's waiting to hear back. She has also reported them via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Barone decided that the best avenue to fight this is "with kindness." So he organized a Twitter protest, but with a unique spin, CBC News reports.
The couple asked people to tweet using the hashtag #WeAreFamily with the photos, and the volume of tweets was so heavy that Fitzgibbon had to make her Twitter account private, Barone said.
The object of the non-outrage protest was "to kill them with kindness," he said.
"We were interviewed in an Irish newspaper, and I said thank you to this woman because she's giving us an opportunity to teach our son that there is intolerance, and that you can do something about it."
Prejudice at the hands of conservatives hasn't changed the meaning of the photo, Barone notes.
"Milo was seconds out of the womb, umbilical cord still attached. The midwife yelled, 'Take your shirts off!' We whipped our shirts off, and the baby was given to us," he said. "The umbilical cord was still attached."
"It's so so crazy," he said. "Words can't describe the amount of love you have for someone, for the baby, for the partner."
Both men say they are trying to find the bright side of all of this, The Star reports. Barone said he hopes this will bring awareness to surrogacy and same-sex couples. And since a lot of people are uneducated, he thinks this is a good opportunity to show the world that "family is family."
And for young Milo, that's all he needs.
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