Originally published on Advocate.com July 25 2003 12:00 AM ET
A Naperville, Ill., middle school teacher is suing a skateboarding company over their use of a photo in an advertisement that allegedly portrays her as gay. The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Chicago. It names as defendants Toy Machine Bloodsucking Skateboard Co. president Ed Templeton and its San Diego-based parent company, Tum Yeto, Inc. The lawsuit, which seeks damages in excess of $100,000, alleges that the woman did not give the company permission to use a photo of her in an ad campaign that uses the catchphrase "I am gay in a happy way not a sexual one."
According to the lawsuit, parents, students, and fellow teachers who did not know the woman was a lesbian have questioned her repeatedly about the photo since a student discovered the ad in the skateboarding magazine Thrasher. "Several teachers informed [the woman] that the advertisement did not reflect well upon her and it would not be good for her career," the lawsuit said. Company officials could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.
The woman, who is in her early 20s, does not skateboard. She lives in DuPage County and posed for the photo with another woman while sitting on a park bench in Naperville in June 2002. The lawsuit said Templeton took the photo during one of the company's skateboarding tours. The ad shows two women in black sleeveless shirts with cigarettes in their mouths, promoting the release of a skateboarding videotape called "Sucking the Life."
"If you're going to use someone's picture for commercial gain such as an advertisement, you must get written permission, which we allege did not happen here," said Keith Keogh, the woman's attorney. He would not disclose what school the woman teaches at but said she now fears she will lose her job. "For a brand-new teacher to deal with this type of situation in her first month of teaching, to deal with students, parents, and other teachers, is not something she should have had to go through," Keogh said.