The leading sports magazine in America has featured a gay celebratory kiss in a feature around the upcoming Super Bowl.

Sports Illustrated, the top sports magazine in the US, featured an image of a gay couple kissing at a gay sports bar in celebration of the San Francisco 49ers getting a place in the competition.

The magazine, which has over 3 million readers, featured the kiss in the preview issue around the Super Bowl.

The photo was taken at a bar, Hi Tops in San Francisco’s Castro district at the moment it was clear that the 49ers had secured a place in the Super Bowl.

The decision to run the photograph has been hailed by LGBT rights activists, as the issue of openly gay sports people has been fiercely debated, and high-profile athletes have been outspoken on both sides of the argument regarding equal marriage.

“Hi Tops” opened a few months ago, bartender Logan Chavarria says, “A lot of people come in and don’t even know it’s a gay bar and then we find out we have common bond,” NBC reports.

The bar’s owner Jesse Woodward says the photo sends a winning message “Sports fans from all walks of life and we’re all a big melting pot everyone can get along.”

Gay rights advocates have noted the fact that both the San Francisco 49ers and rival team the Baltimore Ravens, and players from both teams, have strong links to equal marriage, and LGBT rights.

Ravens player, and equal marriage advocate, Brendon Ayanbadejo, has said that he wants to use the massive exposure which the Super Bowl brings to speak out about marriage equality.

Brendon Ayanbadejo was previously involved in a controversy because he was criticised by a state delegate for speaking in favour of equal marriage.

In November, upon waking to find that Maryland voters had chosen to legalise equal marriage in the state, Ayanbadejo said it was “like Christmas”.

Actor, Neil Patrick Harris, recently faced accusations of “mocking Christianity” and pushing a “gay agenda” for his appearance in an advert for the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl will take place in the US on 3 February 2013.