Celebrities, Activists Protest Beverly Hills Hotel Owner

Celebrities, including Richard Branson, Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osbourne, as well as human rights and LGBT groups have announced they are boycotting the chain

The Beverly Hills City Council is set to take up a resolution Tuesday condemning new laws in the country of Brunei that could punish homosexuality, abortion and adultery with death by stoning, one day after Jay Leno joined demonstrators to protest the Beverly Hills Hotel's ties to the tiny southeast Asian nation's sultan.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who owns the Dorchester Collection hotel chain that includes the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, announced last week that he would move ahead with implementing Shariah, raising concerns Brunei authorities could order death by stoning for some behavior, including homosexuality and adultery.

"What year is this?" Leno said during the protest Monday outside the Beverly Hills Hotel. "What is this, 1814? Come on, people. It's 2014."

The Beverly Hills City Council will consider a resolution Tuesday night that calls for condemnation of the government of Brunei's new laws.

Celebrities, including Richard Branson, Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osbourne, as well as human rights and LGBT groups have announced they are boycotting the chain, with some events already being moved. Leno has said he does not back a boycott because of the potential effect on employees.

Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, said he respects the demonstrators right to protest, but that the chain is an autonomous company with a strict code of conduct that calls for equality and respect for everyone.

"Any actions that are taken today are actually religious actions, which we have absolutely no part to play with, but can have damaging effects to what happens in Beverly Hills," Cowdray said. "If they have an anger against Brunei, then they should be taking that to the international channels."

Cowdray said any economic impact from the boycott will hurt the employees, who rely on tips and service charges from guests.

"We invest very heavily into our hotels and have over the past few years invested in excess of $150 million into this economy," Cowdray said. "We are a very, very big contributor to the local Beverly Hills economy.''

Leno, who spoke for about two minutes during the rally, said he believes evil flourishes when good people do nothing.

"I'm guessing I will not be invited to see his car collection anytime soon, but I'd like to think that all people are basically good and when they realize this is going on, hopefully they will do something about it,'' Leno said.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's Global Women's Rights Awards, an event co-chaired by Leno and his wife, has been withdrawn from being held Monday night at the Beverly Hills Hotel, according to the foundation's executive director Kathy Spillar.

"This is an outrage," Spillar said of the laws introduced in Brunei. "These laws are like the Taliban's laws when they ruled Afghanistan and we must as a community of human rights supporters speak out."

Lorri Jean, CEO of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, said no decent government or business should have any dealings with the sultan.

"His policies of murdering and torturing gay and lesbian people and women have no place in civilized society," Jean said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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