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CEO defends hotel company as boycott over Brunei law expands

‘All they are doing is hurting a local business’: Christopher Cowdray

CEO Christopher Cowdray is defending the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, part of the Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection, which is facing a growing boycott over the country’s introduction of a new penal code that prescribes stoning as punishment for adultery and homosexuality.

At least nine events have now been pulled from the hotels, forcing Cowdray to fight back, CBS This Morning reports. Arguing that the company observes American and European laws, not those of Brunei, he says that he feels “totally unfairly picked on” and that the boycott serves only to hurt a local business.

Asked for his opinion about the Bruneian law, Cowdray declined to comment.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called on the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air to cease promotions of services to gay couples, saying it’s the “height of hypocrisy.” 

“We must ensure that profits from LGBT weddings in the US stop going to a regime that could soon start executing its LGBT citizens,” HRC president Chad Griffin says in a statement.

The Beverly Hills Courier reports that city councillors passed a resolution May 6 calling on Brunei and other governments that have anti-gay laws to divest themselves of their interests in Beverly Hills properties. 

The United Nations; international human rights groups, including Amnesty International; and LGBT advocacy groups in Asia have condemned the Brunei law, which was first announced by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in October last year. At that time, Bolkiah characterized the measure as “a special guidance from Allah to us all,” adding that it is “now part of the great history of our nation.”

Midnight Poonkasetwattana, executive director of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health says, “This law carries heavy and degrading penalties that create barriers towards enjoying the right to sexual health, especially in accessing preventive measures that will protect people from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. This law will further, if not lead to, discrimination against gay and transgender people.” 

A number of celebrities, including former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Osbourne and Stephen Fry have announced they will boycott the properties that are part of the collection.