L.A. city leaders call for boycott of 2 hotels over Brunei’s antigay laws

Los Angeles leaders are calling for a boycott of two Brunei-owned hotels, including the Beverly Hills Hotel, over the sultanate's death penalty laws for gay sex and adultery.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

Following in the footsteps of actor George Clooney, Los Angeles city leaders are calling for a boycott of two hotels that are popular with Hollywood royalty, because the business owners are part of a foreign government that punishes homosexuality and adultery with death.

Councilman Paul Koretz, L.A. Controller Ron Galperin and head of Equality California Rick Zbur said in a news conference Tuesday that they will work to implement formal measures that would discourage city residents and tourists from staying at the hotels.

Koretz will introduce a resolution at an upcoming City Council meeting, he said.

Starting April 3, the small, oil-rich monarchy of Brunei, located just east of Malaysia, will implement Islamic criminal laws that would lead to punishments such as stoning for gay sex and amputation for petty theft. Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Brunei government, owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air.


“This is sickening and it’s unacceptable,” Galperin told reporters at the news conference. “When the gravity of this decree set in, it hit me hard, not just because I’m a member of the LGBT community. … What kind of world do we live in where a country wants to put someone to death, wants to stone them just for being gay?”

RELATED: Can George Clooney persuade Hollywood to boycott hotels over Brunei’s antigay laws? »

It’s not the first time city leaders have called for a boycott of the hotels. Protests and boycotts sparked in 2014 and 2015, when a first wave of criminal codes based on sharia law was implemented in Brunei at the direction of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

That first phase of the new legal code allowed for those failing to attend Friday prayers and those who become pregnant outside of marriage to be be jailed or fined. A second phase allowed the severing of limbs and flogging for those who commit property crimes.

“Unfortunately, peoples’ memories are sometimes short,” Galperin said. “There have been a number of attempts on an international level and otherwise to talk some sense into them, but that’s not something that has been successful.”

But as city leaders revive the effort, actors across Hollywood are hoping to give it some clout.

Hotel Bel-Air is owned by the sultan of Brunei.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

“They’re nice hotels,” said actor George Clooney in a column on Thursday. “But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of [Brunei’s] hotels, we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”

Many celebrities have since joined Clooney in expressing disdain for the hotels they have grown to love over the years. The Beverly Hills Hotel has been a lavish refuge for celebrities for decades. Elizabeth Taylor celebrated six of her eight honeymoons there, and Frank Sinatra was a patron of its famous Polo Lounge.

Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno and Elton John have all publicly condemned the Brunei government’s laws and stopped staying at the hotels. On Friday, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra’s daughter, said she hasn’t stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel in years, despite the fact that it had become a big part of her life.

“Holidays, brunches & my younger daughter’s wedding!” she said on Twitter. “Most of all I miss the Polo Lounge, great bar, but I won’t go back.”

Koretz, Galperin and Zbur said they would search for ways to reach the Brunei government’s pocketbook in other ways, including discouraging local meetings and events from being held at the hotels, pursuing legislation and asking the Trump administration to take steps to stop the Brunei government’s cruel punishments.


Twitter: @r_valejandra