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The Marine Corps is fighting mad over an AIDS prevention ad depicting two bare-chested men, one of them tattooed with the Marine emblem, locked in a romantic embrace.

The Marines have threatened legal action against the San Francisco AIDS Foundation unless it stops its "unauthorized and inappropriate" use of the eagle, globe and anchor emblem.The foundation is standing firm and plans to use the advertisement in several area publications, spokesman Joe Fera said Monday. The ad ran in the Sunday magazine of the San Francisco Examiner in June.

"Our attorney doesn't think there's any statutory violation," Fera said.

The ad is aimed at persuading sexually active people to get tested for the AIDS virus. It features photographs of four embracing couples - two of them heterosexual, one lesbian - shot nude from the waist up.

One of the men in the homosexual embrace has a Marine tattoo on his upper arm.

The Marine Corps urged the foundation to stop its use of the emblem in a July 15 letter by Maj. K.H. Winters, an assistant staff judge advocate.

Use of the emblem "could create the inference that the Marine Corps is somehow partially responsible for the spread of AIDS in the San Francisco area" and "could be viewed as tacit approval of homosexuality in the Marine Corps," Winters said. The military bars homosexuals.

In a second letter Aug. 11, Winters threatened to refer the matter to the U.S. attorney general for legal action.

"Quite frankly if they just remove the emblem, I don't see that it would do any harm to the proposed purpose of the advertisement," said Marine spokeswoman Lt. Kim Miller.