BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA.com) — About 100 women’s and gay rights activists gathered Monday at the Beverly Hills Hotel to protest what critics say is a “Taliban-like” penal code that includes the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women who have abortions.
KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports a familiar late-night TV host was among those at the rally calling for boycotts and sanctions against the Sultan of Brunei.
Members of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) – including board member Mavis Leno and husband and former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno – gathered with other activists in a park across from the hotel on Sunset Boulevard for the rally.
“We are all here today together to take a stand against the barbaric and inhumane policies of the Sultan of Brunei,” said FMF president Eleanor Smeal.
Officials with FMF recently announced they were pulling the group’s annual Global Awards event from the Hotel and will instead hold the event Monday night at the Hammer Museum in Westwood.
“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,” said Smeal.
Jay Leno likened the situation to the recent controversy involving Clippers owner Donald Sterling over racist comments he made in a taped conversation with his alleged mistress, “V” Stiviano.
“Let’s put it in perspective, the people in the Beverly Hills Hotel now are the Clippers, the Sultan of Brunei is Sterling,” Leno said.
In addition to the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, owns the Bel-Air Hotel and has an estimated net worth of $20 billion.
The Southeast Asian nation’s new penal code – which is based on Islamic sharia law – is set to be implemented in three phases over three years, according to a FMF spokesperson.
The first phase will include fines and prison sentences, while the second phase includes corporal punishment, such as flogging women who have abortions, and amputations. The stoning to death of gay men and lesbians is slated for the third phase.
Businesses have meanwhile distanced themselves from the hotel, including Virgin America and the Motion Picture and Television Fund, whose executives switched the location of this year’s pre-Oscar party.
In a statement, a representative for the Beverly Hills Hotel said sanctions or any other economic action would only end up hurting employees.
The CEO of the Dorchester Collection, the parent company of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Christopher Cowdray, told KCAL9’s Kristine Lazar: “The introduction of the new law is a political and religious matter which has nothing to with myself or any members of staff of the hotel. We have done nothing wrong. We have a very, very strong code of conduct. That code provides absolute equality and respect for every employee.”
The Beverly Hills City Council Tuesday is expected to vote on a resolution proposed by the mayor that condemns the new laws in Brunei and calls on the sultan to sell the Beverly Hills Hotel.