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Kazakh Music Students Win Lawsuit Claiming Moral Damages From Poster Showing Same-Sex Kiss

A court awarded them $188,000 because of a poster of 19th-century Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly kissing Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

Posted on October 28, 2014, at 11:53 a.m. ET

A court in the Kazakh city of Almaty on Tuesday ordered an advertising firm to pay the equivalent of $188,000 in damages for designing a poster that depicts Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly kissing Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, the Kazakh news site Tengrinews reported.

The poster was designed by the Havas Worldwide Kazakhstan agency for a gay nightclub at the corner of two streets named after the 19th-century cultural icons, but it was intended as a submission for an advertising competition, not as a public promotion, Eurasianet reports. The agency and its CEO, Dariya Khamitzhanova, had already been fined $1,700 in a lawsuit brought by the Almaty government that claimed the poster offended "moral values" by showing "nontraditional sexual relations, which are unacceptable to society." The suit was brought by a group of students and teachers at a national conservatory named after Kurmangazy seeking "moral damages."

Khamitzhanova called the ruling "unfair" and said she would appeal. The judgement, she told Tengrinews, "will ruin our company."

Kazakhstan currently has no law banning "gay propaganda", unlike neighboring Russia, but leaders of the nationalist Bolashak movement have called for the enactment of such a law. Its leader, Dauren Babamuratov, also suggested blood tests be used to detect LGBT people and said they could also be identified because they wear "colored pants."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.