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Protesters — including Jay Leno — descended on the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday to bring attention to upcoming penalties for adultery and homosexuality in Brunei.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as its fancy, nearby sister establishment the Hotel Bel-Air, are part of the Dorchester Collection, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Brunei government. Last week, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced a new criminal code based on sharia law, starting with fines or jail terms for things like skipping Friday prayers or extramarital pregnancy. The second phase will be rolled out later this year, involving the severing of limbs and flogging for property crimes, while the third phase in 2015 will make adultery and gay sex punishable by death.
Ellen DeGeneres said on Twitter that she will not visit any of the Dorchester Collection hotels "until this is resolved," and Leno quipped: "This is 2014, not 1814. This is what I'm doing in my retirement." Leno was joined outside the hotel by members of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and the Feminist Majority (his wife, Mavis, is on the board).
Many are calling for a boycott of the Dorchester properties, and the Beverly Hills City Council is expected to pass a resolution calling for the government of Brunei to sell the hotel. The chief executive of the Dorchester Collection, Christopher Cowdray, told the Los Angeles Times that a boycott "won't stop the implementation" of the new laws, and would "only hurt the employees. We are obviously very disappointed by the approach that has been taken.... This is an iconic property that relies on international business."
It was business as usual at the hotel during the protest, and employees even brought out bottled water and cookies to the crowd. --Catherine Garcia