05/08/2014 09:37 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Why Celebrities Are Boycotting This Iconic Hotel

Ellen Degeneres and Jay Leno are among a group of protesters boycotting the iconic, century-old Beverly Hills Hotel. The establishment, once frequented by Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, is owned by Hassanal Bolkiah, who happens to be the sultan of Brunei, a small country in Southeast Asia which recently adopted strict Islamic penal laws.

The sultan announced in April that the restrictive Sharia criminal code would go into effect in phases, starting May 1. The Guardian reports that the new legislation includes harsh violation penalties: stoning homosexuals to death, imprisoning those who miss Friday prayer, punishing adulterers and severing the limbs of robbers. Brunei is the first East Asian country to adopt such laws, according to Reuters.

“The decision to implement the (Shariah penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah's command as written in the Quran,” the sultan told the Associated Press last week.

Demonstrators rallied together across the street from the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday to protest the hotel's owner. During the gathering, Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, expressed her disdain for the sultan and his country's new laws.

"His policies of murdering and torturing gay and lesbian people and women have no place in a civilized society," she said per CBS.

Comedian Jay Leno told the crowd of protesters that he was baffled and appalled by the laws.

“I’d like to think that all people are basically good and that when they realize that this is going on, hopefully, they will do something about it ... I mean, it’s just … I don’t know. Berlin, 1933? Hello, does it seem that far off from what happened during the Holocaust?” Leno said, per The Clarion Project, an advocacy group dedicated to exposing Islamic extremism.

Other celebrities have also sided against Brunei's new laws and said they plan to boycott the Beverly Hills Hotel and other hotels owned by its parent company, the Dorchester Collection.

The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday for the sultan to either change his country's brutal new laws or sell the hotel, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Amid the controversy, several organizations scheduled to hold events at the Beverly Hills Hotel have relocated to different venues.

Meanwhile, employees at the hotel are concerned about their future.

"We work. We take care of our families," Badrul Chowdhury, a waiter at the hotel for 14 years, told Reuters.

Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray told CBS the city council's vote could "unfairly" harm workers.

"Actions that you take have to be seriously considered because they will affect the livelihoods of these people," Cowdray said.



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