Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and Controller Ron Galperin called for a boycott of the Hotel Bel-Air and Beverly Hills Hotel in protest of “draconian” penalties for homosexuality now in effect in Brunei. The royal family of Brunei owns the hotels.
Death sentences by stoning for same-sex acts and adultery, public flogging for women who receive abortions and amputation for thieves are among the laws now in effect in the southeast Asian monarchy, and local leaders from cities including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood have been speaking out. Brunei introduced the laws in 2014, but they were not implemented until April 3.
During a news conference April 2, Koretz, 5th District, said the two hotels “have a long romantic history in Southern California and have been luxurious destinations for tourists and locals for decades.”
“But,” he added, “as long as Brunei enforces these barbaric laws, we have to do everything we can to publicly condemn their actions and, if that means marring their reputation and fabled history, then so be it. We can’t allow the Sultan of Brunei and the country’s financial institutions to comfortably profit, while their new laws make being gay and adultery capital offenses and theft and abortions are met with degrading brutal punishments as well.”
Galperin said he “will not set foot in these establishments so long as they are owned and controlled by a regime that is willing to kill LGBTQ people.”
“While I feel bad for the many hard-working employees of these local hotels, no one should support or attend any events there while lives are on the line,” he said. “I urge all people of conscience to join me in standing up to hate and brutality.”
The Beverly Hills City Council called on Brunei to divest from the hotels, but did not call for a boycott. Council members said widespread calls to boycott the hotels in 2014, and the renewed calls for a boycott with the new laws in Brunei going into effect, hurt the restaurant staff, parking attendants and other workers at the hotels who rely on tips.
“It affected the little people,” Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch said. “The sultan himself couldn’t care less.”
The city had also introduced a resolution condemning Brunei when the nation introduced the laws five years ago.
“We really hope that the day comes when we don’t have ownership like that in our community,” Councilwoman Lili Bosse said.
The owner of the hotels, Dorchester Collection, released a statement denouncing any sort of discrimination.
“Dorchester Collection’s code emphasises equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation, and strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees,” the statement read. “Inclusion and diversity remain core beliefs as we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
The new laws in Brunei have also drawn the ire of the international community. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement that the laws “would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law.”
“Any religion-based legislation must not violate human rights, including the rights of those belonging to the majority religion, as well as of religious minorities and non-believers,” she said.
West Hollywood condemned the Brunei laws in 2014 when they were announced. Mayor John D’Amico said additional condemnation of Brunei by the City Council will be on its next meeting agenda April 15, and that continued public pressure “is the only way it will ever make a difference.”
“A group of well-meaning people can change the world,” he said.
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