Protesters including Jay Leno and actress Frances Fisher spoke out at the Beverly Hills Hotel Monday against its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, because of anti-gay and anti-woman laws imposed by his country.
“I mean – stoning? What century are we in?” asked Leno, who retired from hosting NBC’s “Tonight Show” in February. “It’s outrageous.”
Leno compared the sultan of the Southeast Asian country to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned from the NBA last week after a racist rant.
“Let’s put it in perspective. The people in the Beverly Hills Hotel are the Clippers. The Sultan is Sterling,” Leno said. “We don’t blame anyone who works at the hotel. They’re just the Clippers players, they’re doing their game.”
The Feminist Majority Foundation organized the protest after deciding to move tonight’s Global Women’s Rights Awards from the Beverly Hills Hotel to the Hammer Museum in Westwood.
Speakers included board members Leno and his wife, Mavis Leno, as well as Fisher (“Titanic”) and Eleanor Smeal, the president of the women’s rights organization.
“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,” Smeal said in a previous statement. “‘Kill-a-gay’ laws, or laws that allow the flogging of women for abortion, violate international law and have no place in civilized society.”
Phase one of the Brunei’s new penal code, based on Islamic criminal punishments, went into effect on May 1. Muslim citizens of the Southeast Asia country, which neighbors Malaysia, can now be fined or jailed for offenses including not performing Friday prayers, becoming pregnant out of wedlock, propagating other religions and indecent behavior.
Phases two and three of the law will subject adulterers and gay people to stoning, flogging and amputation.
Hassanal Bolkiah, the leader of Brunei, controls the Brunei Investment Agency, which owns the Dorchester Collection, the company that runs the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as the Hotel Bel-Air.
“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,” Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray said in a statement in response to the protest. “Today’s global economy needs to be placed in a broader perspective. Most of us are not aware of the investors behind the brands that have become an integral part of our everyday life, from the gas we put in our cars, to the clothes we wear, to the way we use social media, and to the hotels we frequent. American companies across the board are funded by foreign investment, including Sovereign Wealth Funds.”
Protests in front of the historic hotel on Sunset Blvd. began last month. A number of organizations have canceled events there due to the link between the hotel and Bolkiah.
The Motion Picture & Television Fund announced on Monday that it has decided to move its annual pre-Oscar charity bash, The Night Before the Oscars, which had been held at the hotel since 2003.
Teen Line, a confidential phone helpline for teenagers, also announced on Monday that it would move its annual fundraising luncheon, scheduled for Wednesday. The event honoring Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, will now be held on the Sony lot.
The Beverly Hills City Council is meeting on Tuesday to discuss a resolution condemning Brunei’s new laws, and encourage “the government of Brunei to divest itself of the Beverly Hills Hotel.”
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