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Suit seeks $2.7 million from band whose gay kiss got music festival canceled

The 1975 singer criticized Malaysian government stance on homosexuality

The organizer of a Malaysian music festival is seeking 12.3 million ringgit ($2.7 million) in losses from British band The 1975, after its lead singer’s on-stage protest of the country’s anti-gay laws prompted authorities to shut down the festival, the company’s lawyer said Friday.

Future Sound Asia sent a letter to the band on Monday demanding compensation over a breach of contract, said FSA lawyer David Dinesh Mathew.

During the July 21 performance, Matty Healy used profanities in his speech criticizing the Malaysian government’s stance against homosexuality, before kissing bassist Ross MacDonald during the opening show at the Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur. Footage of the performance was posted on social media and sparked backlash in the predominantly Muslim country.

In Malaysia, homosexuality is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and caning.

The government slammed Healy’s conduct, blacklist the band from the country and cut short the three-day festival. Some in the LGBTQ+ community also took to social media to criticize the band, saying Healy had disrupted the work of activists pushing for change and also endangered the community.

In the letter, Mathew said the band had given a written pledge before the show that it would adhere to all local guidelines and regulations. Instead, Healy’s “use of abusive language, equipment damage, and indecent stage behaviour” caused financial losses to FSA.

“Unfortunately, the assurance was ignored,” Mathew said Friday in a written statement to The Associated Press. “Their actions have had repercussions on local artists and small businesses, who relied on the festival for creative opportunities and their livelihoods.”

As such, he said FSA demanded that The 1975 acknowledge their liability and pay 12.3 million ringgit in compensation for damages incurred.

On its website, FSA said it is in the midst of accommodating all refund requests.

The lawyer said FSA will take legal action in the courts of England if the band fails to respond by Monday, a week after the legal letter of claim was sent.

The band canceled its shows in Taiwan and Jakarta, Indonesia, after the fiasco in the Malaysian capital. It wasn’t the first such provocative on-stage display by Healy in the name of LGBTQ+ rights: In 2019, he kissed a male fan during a concert in the United Arab Emirates, which outlaws same-sex sexual activity.

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