IT WAS A family photo shared around the world as a symbol of love: here were two dads meeting their newborn son for the first time.
Toronto couple BJ Barone and Frankie Nelson say they were inundated with messages of support after the image – shot by a friend of the baby’s surrogate mother in June 2014 – went viral.
But it also became the subject of backlash from surrogacy critics, including one vocal opponent here in Ireland.
Independent Kerry election candidate Mary Fitzgibbon, a nursing lecturer at IT Tralee, has posted the photo on social media multiple times over the past year.
During the marriage referendum campaign, she tweeted it with the caption: ”A motherless child is the prize – the buying of children.”
She shared it in another Twitter update with the message: “We must reaffirm the right of a child to grow up and be loved where possible by their own mother and father.”
Earlier this month, she posted it on Facebook with the hashtag #no2surrogacy.
These and other posts were brought two weeks ago to the attention of photographer Lindsay Foster, who shot the image at a Canadian hospital.
Foster told TheJournal.ie that she was taken aback to see her work being used without permission – as the photographer, she holds the copyright.
But more than that, she objected to it being “misrepresented for something I don’t believe in”.
“It’s so sad to know that this image that shouts ‘love’ from the rooftops is being used so negatively by a political candidate,” she said.
Barone, whose son will be celebrating his second birthday in June, said he and his partner were “saddened that Mary is using the most beautiful moment in our lives as something negative for her own political gains”.
I think the photo speaks for itself: the expression on Frank’s face says nothing but love.
It is love that makes a family, not a mother or a father. If everyone had as much love as Milo does in his life, the world would be a much happier place.
Everyone should have the right to marry and have children. Love is love.
When asked to respond to the photographer’s complaint that she was not authorised to use the photo, Fitzgibbon directed TheJournal.ie to a tweet of Barone’s – see below – which invited her to “share our picture with everyone” (to “show the world that love has no boundaries”).
However, Barone’s tweet was sent only after he became aware that Fitzgibbon had posted the image online.
Fitzgibbon is yet to respond directly to our question on the photographer’s specific complaint that the use of the photo for campaigning is unauthorised.
The surrogate mother who gave birth to Barone’s son noted that they had asked for the picture to be shared but not used for campaign purposes:
In her response, Fitzgibbon also referred us to a statement from the Mothers and Fathers Matter group in Kerry that calls surrogacy “a loss that is planned in advance of its creation, imposed at birth, and which the child will have to endure for the rest of its life”.
“The press release echoes my sentiments,” she said, adding that several European countries have banned the practice.
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