SPLC's criteria for listing hate groups is based on those who "demonize" a class of people with "misinformation and lies," according to Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC Intelligence Project. Such groups include the Ku Klux Klan, anti-Semitic organizations, neo-Nazis and black supremacy groups.
"There are only a handful of anti-gay groups," said Beirich. "We don't list those who are against gay marriage or the Biblical prescription against gay marriage -- only the groups that are engaged in demonizing propaganda and lies about the gay community and basically lying about them to make them pariahs."
Previous campaigns by Public Advocate include:
A fundraising letter asking recipients to "imagine a world where police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys on the streets?"
Comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality.
Suggesting having gays as Boy Scout leaders is "the same as being an accessory to the rape of hundreds of boys."
Characterizing campaigns to stop anti-LGBT bullying as "requir[ing] schools to teach appalling homosexual acts ... force private and even religious schools to teach a pro-homosexual agenda."
"I use colorful language and hyperbole, but when I say something like, 'Keep Obama away from your children,' I am not stupid, I know it's hyperbole," said Delgaudio.
"We definitely have 2,000 photos and in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 videos on my website, and if someone doesn't want us to use it, we take it off," he said. "We seek permission or we take the stuff off that's not in the public domain.
"This may be the first objection in 30 years," Delgaudio said. "Frankly, we are not distributing this photo and I'd be hard pressed to find anything today. Mostly, this an attack on me from previous statements I've made."
As SPLC waits for or a response from Public Advocate before the threatened legal action, Edwards and Privitere hope the incident is a teachable moment.
"We want to use this as an opportunity to educate people and show them that a gay couple can and do have loving relationships," said Edwards.
"This sort of thing has a trickle-down effect," said Privitere. "I think of all the closeted gay high school students who got mail that day and felt disheartened that they would never have a family and the parents on the fence about whether to accept their gay child for who they are. That hurts.
"These people are spreading lies, and I want them [recipients of the mailers] to know they have our support," he added.