Photo of Toronto dads used in anti-surrogacy campaign
Published Saturday, February 27, 2016 7:42PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 27, 2016 8:39PM EST
A photograph of an emotional first meeting between two Toronto fathers and their newborn son is being used as a political tool as part of an anti-surrogacy campaign in Europe.
The photo of BJ Barone and his partner Frank Nelson holding their baby Milo was captured just minutes after he was born to a surrogate during World Pride Week in Toronto on June 27, 2014. The image went viral and sparked thousands of messages of support from around the world.
The photo re-surfaced on social media earlier this month when Irish independent candidate Mary Fitzgibbon shared the image on her Facebook page with the hashtag #no2surrogacy.
Barone and Nelson learned of the social media posts and decided to fight back on social media by sending Fitzgibbon tweets denouncing her stance and use of the photo.
Fitzgibbon ended up losing in her riding during Ireland’s general election on Friday, something Nelson is hoping they had a hand in.
But it appears the photo may have been used in another political campaign.
Barone and Nelson said they also came across the photo on a poster on social media that bears the logo of the right-wing Italian political party Fratelli D'Italia.
A part of the poster's caption roughly translates to the rights of children have to be defended.
Italy has been embroiled in a bitter debate about LBGT rights. Earlier this week, the country's Senate voted to grant legal recognition to civil unions, but stopped short of authorizing gay marriage.
In an interview with CTV News on Saturday, Nelson called the social media posts upsetting.
"(The photo) became famous because of the beauty in the image and then somehow that beauty and that intimate moment for us is being taken and being used against us and the gay community," he said.
While their son Milo is too young to understand what is going on, his parents hope to eventually use the experience to teach him a lesson about acceptance.
"(We would) tell him that's it's alright to be different … to tolerate other people and to accept other people regardless of their age, gender or sexuality," said Barone.
"Everyone is different in their own way, and that's fine."