BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA) – A UCLA student group found itself awkwardly caught in the crosshairs of a social controversy after being unable to relocate a large gala set for Thursday evening at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which has become the target of a high-profile boycott over its owner’s stance on LGBTQ issues.
The Beverly Hills Hotel is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. This week, the oil-rich Southeast Asian nation began implementing Islamic laws which call for the punishment of gay people and those accused of adultery by stoning or whipping them to death.
The laws have prompted several celebrities and companies to boycott the nine upscale hotels owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, which include the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air.
The UCLA Black Law Students Association unintentionally stepped into this controversy after holding its 50th Anniversary Black Law Solidarity Gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel Thursday night, an event it says it had planned and booked several months in advance, long before it knew of Brunei’s new laws.
When BLSA learned recently of the laws, it sought to move the gala to another venue. However, because of its contract with the hotel, it would have had to pay a penalty of more than $90,000, money it says is earmarked for scholarships.
“UCLA BLSA joins the many activist voices, such as Ellen DeGeneres and George Clooney, in strongly supporting the boycott of the Sultan of Brunei’s hotels,” the group said in a statement provided to CBS2. “With that stated, we have unfortunately found that we will not be able to shift the venue of our April 4 event, given the fast-approaching hour of the event, as well as the upfront costs that our organization has already taken on. Hence, our event will proceed as planned.”
Brunei first received criticism when it implemented the first phase of this new penal code back in 2014. Under that penal code, offenses such as theft or drinking alcohol could be punished by whipping or amputation, according to Amnesty International. The punishments even apply to children.
Brunei, with a population of just around 500,000, is located on the island of Borneo, which it shares with Malaysia and Indonesia. Due to its vast oil reserves, it is one of the richest nations in the world in terms of per capita income.