Malaysian music festival threatens legal action against The 1975 following LGBT+ row

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The organisers of Malaysia’s Good Vibes Festival are considering legal action against The 1975 after the event was cancelled due to frontman Matty Healy’s comments about the country’s anti-LGBT+ laws. The British rock band headlined the festival on July 22 in Kuala Lumpur. Healy expressed his disagreement with the laws and stated that he did not see the point of performing in a country that limits who individuals can have sex with. He also mentioned that many of the festival-goers were likely to be gay, progressive, and cool. The performance was cut short when Healy kissed bassist Ross MacDonald, an action that is prohibited in Malaysia. After briefly disappearing from the stage, Healy returned to tell the audience that they had been banned from Kuala Lumpur.

The government of Malaysia cancelled the festival entirely due to its strict stance against any actions that challenge or ridicule Malaysian laws. Organisers Future Sound Asia (FSA) issued a Letter of Claim to The 1975, demanding that they acknowledge liability and compensate for damages incurred. If the band fails to comply, FSA plans to pursue legal action in UK courts. FSA argues that Healy’s actions tarnished the festival’s reputation and intentionally violated the agreement with the band, causing significant financial losses for the company and local artists and businesses. The band’s representatives chose not to comment on FSA’s statement.

In addition to potential legal action from FSA, The 1975 is also facing a class-action lawsuit from Malaysian musicians and festival vendors who lost income due to the festival’s cancellation.

Concerns were raised by members of Malaysia’s LGBT+ community and allies over potential backlash caused by Healy’s actions. Thilaga Sulathireh, a founder of the LGBT+ group Justice for Sisters, warned of the timing of Healy’s protest, as it coincides with highly contested state elections. LGBT issues are often scapegoated during political campaigns in Malaysia.

LGBT+ individuals face severe discrimination in Malaysia, where homosexuality is prohibited and sodomy can lead to imprisonment and corporal punishment.

In response to the festival cancellation, Healy shared the statement on Instagram and made a joke about not kissing Ross for 20 years. The band announced that they have also withdrawn from scheduled shows in Taiwan and Indonesia, citing the impossibility of proceeding with the tour dates.

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