Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno boycott Beverly Hills Hotel over Sultan’s anti-gay stance

Los Angeles

Queues of limousines and crowds of photographers are usually the main obstacle to getting into the Beverly Hills Hotel, but since the owner introduced fundamentalist laws to the state he rules, protesters have displaced paparazzi at the entrance.

The Sultan of Brunei, the owner of the Dorchester Collection hotel group, which includes the Beverly Hills Hotel and London’s Dorchester Hotel, is introducing sharia law including punishments such as stoning for adultery and dismemberment for thieves.

On Monday, the hotel was due to host the Global Women’s Rights Awards gala, chaired by comedian Jay Leno and his wife Mavis. Instead, the event was held elsewhere, and the couple joined a midday demonstration outside the hotel by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), the organisation that organises the gala. Around 150 people turned up to protest the policies of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, whose Brunei Investment Agency owns the hotel group.

The president of the FMF, Eleanor Smeal, said in a statement: “We cannot hold a human rights and women’s rights event at a hotel whose owner would institute a penal code that fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights.” The official implementation of sharia law in Brunei in south east Asia began on 1 May, when Bolkiah’s administration criminalised becoming pregnant out of wedlock and “indecent behaviour”. The second and third phases of the legislation will outlaw adultery and homosexuality, and introduce punishments including stoning, flogging and limb amputation. In a speech last week, the Sultan described the law as a “great achievement”.

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah describes sharia law as a 'great achievement' (Getty) Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah describes sharia law as a 'great achievement' (Getty)
At the demonstration, three men in suits, representatives of the hotel, stood beside a table offering free water and cookies. Most of the protesters refused to partake. Director Molly Schiot, 33, and her fiancée Cass Bugge, 34, held a homemade sign with a message for the hotel’s guests: “Move your stay to a hotel that isn’t owned by a leader that allows execution of gay citizens,” it read. The couple had planned to hold their engagement at the hotel. “But that was before we found out what [Bolkiah] stood for,” Schiot said. “Most people didn’t know until celebrities like Jay Leno and Sharon Osbourne were open about it, and then everyone caught on.”

The boycott against the Beverly Hills Hotel began in April when the LGBT group the Gill Action Fund cancelled a conference there. The campaign gathered steam as celebrities lent their support, beginning with Ellen DeGeneres, who on 22 April tweeted: “I won’t be visiting the Hotel Bel-Air or the Beverly Hills Hotel until this is resolved.” A week later, Sharon Osbourne invited her 2.1 million followers to join the boycott and last Saturday Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson announced that neither he, his family nor any Virgin employee “will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights”.

The company also owns three UK hotels: the Dorchester and 45 Park Lane in London and Coworth Park in Ascot. On 26 April Stephen Fry tweeted: “Cancelled in nick of time: discovered [Coworth Park] that I was booked into is part of the Dorchester Collection.”

On Monday, the Motion Picture & Television Fund announced it would next year move its annual pre-Oscar party, The Night Before the Oscars, to another venue. The Hollywood Reporter magazine has also decided not to host its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast there. Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray said that customers should not concern themselves with the behaviour of investors. “While we recognize people’s concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees. The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers.”

Read more: Stephen Fry boycotts The Dorchester Collection hotels
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss