Almaty Gay Club, Ad Agency Under Pressure Over Kissing Poets

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

August 26, 2014

An online advertising banner for a gay club in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, has sparked a lawsuit and protests on social media.

The ad for the Studio 69 club depicts a treasured 19th-century Kazakh composer and folk singer, Qurmanghazy Saghyrbaiuly, kissing Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin.

The club is located in the intersection of Qurmanghazy and Pushkin streets in Almaty.

The ad has drawn criticism from antigay commentators on social media, and about 20 activists filed a lawsuit on August 25 against the advertising agency that created it, saying it "insulted both Kazakhs and Russians."

The agency, Havas Worldwide Kazakhstan, issued an apology on its website on August 25.

It said the banner will not be used in public.

Homosexual relations were decriminalized in Kazakhstan in the 1990s, but intolerance towards gays is strong.