Turkish Court Rules Gay Group Violates Public Morality, Must Close

A Turkish court on Thursday ordered the closure of a gay association that it ruled was violating public morality, the group said.

Lambda Istanbul, the gay group, said it would appeal the decision within a week.

The court's decision was not final and the association based in Istanbul continues its activities, said Baran Ergenc, a member of the association.

The full name of the group is Lambda Istanbul Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transvestites Solidarity Association. The court ordered the closure of the group for not eliminating words describing sexual identities of its members in its official name, Ergenc said.

"If we take out the words of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transvestites then it is not an association for them," Ergenc said. "The court found the association's name in violation of public morality."

Ergenc said the group was determined to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if Turkey's Appeals Court upholds the decision by the local court in Istanbul. It was not clear when the appeals court could make its decision.

Gays in Turkey say they lack legal protections and face social stigma in the Muslim nation with a secular tradition. Turkey's government has implemented broad reforms in its bid to join the European Union but remains heavily influenced by conservative and religious values.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, and some clubs and cinemas in big cities openly cater to homosexuals. Gay and lesbian societies exist at several universities. But the vast majority of homosexuals remain discreet in a country where liberal views have yet to make inroads in rural areas and many urban settings.