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
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style