A federal judge has ordered the conservative lobbying group USANext to stop using a photograph of an Oregon couple in an internet advertisement that tried to link AARP with support for gay marriage.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, issued a temporary restraining order last night prohibiting USANext from using the photograph of Rick Raymen and Steve Hansen in the group's anti-AARP Social Security campaign. The couple filed suit against USANext and its political consulting firm earlier this week, arguing that the use of their photograph in USANext's attack against the AARP amounted to an invasion of privacy, a violation of their right to control their own images, libel and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Although lawyers for USANext argued strenuously against the issuance of a temporary restraining order, the group's president said after the hearing that he wasn't troubled by the ruling. "We took the banner ad down before we even learned that these gentlemen claimed that their picture had been misused," the Associated Press quoted USANext chairman Charlie Jarvis as saying. "We have not used their picture since then. We do not intend to do so."
While the TRO itself won't stop USANext from using photographs of other couples in its anti-AARP, anti-gay smears, the signal the ruling sends might. A TRO isn't a final ruling on the merits of a lawsuit, but it does provide a glimpse into the judge's thinking about a case. If USANext is getting the hint that Judge Walton will take this case -- and its $25 million claim for damages -- seriously, the group might think twice about appropriating other images for its ad campaign.