The man and woman featured in posters opposing the same sex marriage referendum have denounced the use of their image and say they support “completely” the proposed change to the Constitution.
In a statement published through Amnesty International, the couple said they were “surprised and upset” to see that the photo was being used as part of a campaign with which they do not agree.
“We completely support same-sex marriage, and we believe that same-sex couples’ should of course be able to adopt, as we believe that they are equally able to provide children with much-needed love and care. To suggest otherwise is offensive to us, and to many others,” they said.
The couple, who do not wish to be named are shown with their baby son, whom they are kissing on either cheek, with the headline: “Children deserve a mother and a father” and he urging: Vote No.
The family said that in 2014 they did a shoot with a family friend who is a photographer to get some shots for their family album.
“No money was exchanged - we got nice photos for free, they got nice images for their portfolio. As part of this agreement, we agreed to let them upload them to a stock photo album,” they explained.
“We knew that these were available for purchase and we gave permission. Perhaps, naïvely, we imagined that on the off chance that any was ever selected, it might be for a small magazine or website.
“To confirm, we have not received any money for the photo - then or now, and nor do we expect any.”
The couple said nobody could convince them that “life-long 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.
“In a free society, everyone has the right to express their opinion and campaign for what they feel is right.”
The couple said “we are not lawyers and therefore cannot comment on whether the use of the photo violates any terms and conditions regarding use of stock photos of children for political use, though we are interested to know more about this.”
They were unhappy that the image was used “for a political campaign as legally this seems a bit of a grey area, and we would have expected that for a big campaign like this, Mothers & Fathers Matter might have sought out images of people who represent their views.”
“We are aware of the offer from Mothers & Fathers Matter for dialogue and are deciding whether to pursue this,” they added.
“We look forward to raising our son (in the picture) and our second child (due in June) to be open-minded and unafraid of change, and to respect all colours, creeds and sexualities etc. Above all we hope that children in Ireland, will be guaranteed the equality that our children enjoy, and will be able to grow up in a society which guarantees them full equality before the law, no matter who they love when they eventually go on to form adult, loving, committed relationships.”
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said the couple were upset that an image of their family is being used to promote a message that they profoundly disagree with.
“They want to ensure that when people look at those posters on lamp posts all around the country, and feel angry or upset because of how it judges them or members of their family, that the real family on the poster values them, values their relationships and all families. They want them to know, that they would vote ‘Yes’,” he said.
Doubts about the couple’s approval of the poster emerged on May 5th on social media when the UK-based comedian Adam Hills tweeted that the family in the picture were “appalled” that the photograph was being used without their permission and for a campaign of which they did not approve. Mr Hills said the family were friends of his wife.
This prompted the editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, Michael Kelly, to tweet “when you earn money from renting out your family and waive your rights, you don’t get to complain”. Mr Kelly defended his comments, tweeting he was merely “stating basic facts”.
The No campaign organisation who created the poster, Mothers and Fathers Matter, responded to the couple’s statement by criticising Mr O’Gorman.
They said in a statement: “We’re just worried that next week Colm O’Gorman will be shocked and appalled as he discovers the family in the Coke ads actually likes Pepsi”.”