The oil-rich nation of Brunei has begun to implement its Sharia Law penal code, which criminalizes apostasy and extramarital sex and will ultimately include punishing homosexuality with death by stoning. In Los Angeles, protesters have been targeting the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, which are both part of the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection. A “#StopTheSultan” rally on Monday attracted many LGBT activists and allies, including Jay Leno.
Many organizations have been cancelling their conferences at the hotels, celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Fry have been announcing boycotts, and even Virgin CEO Richard Branson has announced that no Virgin employee will stay at Dorchester Hotels. Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, noted during the protest that boycotting the hotels won’t make a big difference, because Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is already one of the richest people in the world. She implored the crowd on Monday, though, that the campaigns are still important because the negative publicity will have an impact:
The city of Los Angeles has been fighting public bigotry on multiple fronts, and many were quick to compare the Sultan of Brunei to Donald Sterling. Jay Leno was among them, who pointed out that the employees of the hotel are innocent just like the Clippers, but in both cases, the owners must be called out for hateful policies.
At Queerty, James Duke Mason explains what significance the Beverly Hills Hotel has had for his family, including his grandfather, the late actor James Mason. Though he describes it as “the only place where I can go and feel truly happy” and “the only place on earth I truly consider home,” he is committing himself to helping the movement against the Dorchester Collection grow until Brunei’s draconian laws are “thrown in the dustbin of history.”
The U.S. State Department has expressed “serious concerns” over the new penal code and is “watching how the law will be implemented.”