Human Rights Campaign Calls for Sony Pictures, Others to Boycott Beverly Hills Hotel (Exclusive)

1:39 PM PST 05/02/2014 by Seth Abramovitch
Chris Godley

A letter from the LGBT advocacy group urges organizations to cancel upcoming events at the Sultan of Brunei-owned property.

Calls are ramping up for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel -- a direct response to a ruling by the property's owner, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, to adopt Sharia law in his country, which calls for the stoning deaths of Brunei's LGBT citizens and adulterers. 

The latest group to enter the fray is the Human Rights Campaign, whose president, Chad Griffin, has penned a letter calling out several Hollywood philanthropic organizations for hosting upcoming events at the historic hideaway.

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Among the groups targeted are the Aviva Family and Children's Services, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Cedars-Sinai Medical Hospital's Helping Hand of Los Angeles, Colleagues Helpers in Philanthropic Services, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, the Partners in Care Foundation, and Teen Line in collaboration with Sony Pictures. All of them have events scheduled at the Beverly Hills Hotel in the next month.

"There are a number of hotels and venues in the Los Angeles area that aren't owned by foreign governments and leaders that allow for the execution of its LGBT citizens," Griffin argues in his letter. 

Griffin goes on to acknowledge that he has attended events at the Beverly Hills Hotel before -- part of the state-owned Brunei Investment Agency's Dorchester Collection, which also includes landmark luxury hotels in Rome, Paris, London, Milan and Geneva. But, he says, the "extreme nature of the developments" calls for an immediate boycott of both that hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, another Dorchester property in Los Angeles.

Also on Friday, the Beverly Hills city council protested the hotel's connection to the Sultan of Brunei, entreating "the government of Brunei to divest itself of The Beverly Hills Hotel," the Beverly Hills Courier reported.

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One major women's rights event, co-chaired by Jay Leno and and his wife, Mavis, has canceled on the Beverly Hills Hotel. A rep for the Global Women's Rights Awards gala, which was set for May 5, said of the organization's decision: "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 Gill Action Fund, an LGBT political advocacy group, was the first organization to publicly come out against the hotel, having canceled a planned conference at the location.

On April 26, a group of about 15 people -- including actress Beth Grant (The Mindy Project) and Jennifer Howell of charity Art of Elysium -- gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel to protest the Sultan of Brunei's ownership.

The "enforcement of Sharia law phase one" is set to go into effect May 1.

The Beverly Hills Hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The hotel had previously said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, "We continue to abide by the laws of the countries we operate in and do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind. The laws that exist in other countries outside of where Dorchester Collection operates do not affect the policies that govern how we run our hotels. Dorchester Collection's code, endorsed by the company's ownership, emphasizes equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation and strongly values people and cultural diversity among our guests and employees."

The full text of the HRC letter follows:

May 2, 2014

As you may have read, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah -- who is the absolute ruler of Brunei and one of the world's wealthiest people -- has decreed that a new series of draconian penal code reforms will be implemented in Brunei over the next several months. This includes introducing such horrific punishments as amputation, flogging, and worse for a variety of so-called "offenses." Beginning in late 2015, members of the LGBT community could be stoned to death for engaging in relations with one another. In addition, the so-called "offenses" of adultery and out-of-wedlock pregnancy, which would primarily be used against women in the country, make women convicted of these crimes eligible for fines, imprisonment, and stoning.

Following this announcement, the Human Rights Campaign condemned these actions in the strongest possible terms. LGBT citizens in many countries around the world remain persistent targets of harassment, arrest, and violence. In addition, it has long been the case that LGBT Bruneians and LGBT travelers to Brunei are considered criminals for simply being who they are. But this decision means that Brunei will soon become the eighth nation that includes the death penalty as an option for "punishing" LGBT people.

There are a number of hotels and venues in the Los Angeles area that aren't owned by foreign governments and leaders that allow for the execution of its LGBT citizens. We're encouraging members of the LGBT community and our allies to consider those options instead of the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, which are part of the Sultan's Dorchester Collection. In addition, we're calling on organizations that have upcoming events scheduled at these hotels to move them to other locations.

I have attended various events at both hotels over the past several years. But given the extreme nature of these developments, I feel strongly that we in the LGBT community and our allies should take our business elsewhere.

I write to ask that you reconsider your decision to host an event at either of these hotels, and join other prominent organizations -- including Gill Action and the Feminist Majority Foundation, among others -- who have found alternative venues.

Please don't hesitate to contact me or my colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign if you have any questions.

Sincerely, Chad Griffin

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