Sultan of Brunei Becomes L.A. Confidential Honoree

by HRC Staff

Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, called on all potential guests of L.A. Confidential’s pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hills Hotel tonight at 7:00pm PT to follow John Legend’s leadership and refuse to attend the event, which is being thrown in his honor. HRC also strongly refuted L.A. Confidential’s baseless assertion that selecting another venue for their party would have somehow harmed Los Angeles’ economy.


On Tuesday, HRC released a public letter to the leadership of L.A. Confidential urging them to find another location for their event given the Sultan of Brunei’s draconian new laws that could lead to the stoning of women and LGBT people in Brunei later this year. That same day, a representative of John Legend released a statement saying he refused to attend “in light of the horrific anti-women and anti-LGBT policies approved by the hotel's owner, the Sultan of Brunei” and that he “didn’t wish to further enrich the Sultan” as a result of them.


Ignoring John Legend’s courageous stance, as well as the many prominent citizens, business leaders, philanthropists, elected officials, and organizations who have chosen to take their business elsewhere, L.A. Confidential announced yesterday that it is not changing venues.


"The fact is John Legend courageously stood in support of the fundamental human rights of women and LGBT people, and LA Confidential has sided with the Sultan of Brunei,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.  “While L.A. Confidential chose convenience over courage, who will stand with them?  And now that John Legend isn’t going, is the new honoree the Sultan of Brunei?   We urge all potential guests to follow Mr. Legend’s leadership and avoid lining the Sultan’s pockets and sending profits back to his regime.”


It is unclear whether media will be allowed to cover the event, if there will be a red carpet, and who would still attend.  L.A. Confidential released a tip sheet prior to Legend’s announcement indicating some of the previously-confirmed attendees.


In response to Legend’s decision and HRC’s letter, L.A. Confidential publisher Alison Miller claimed to support human rights and “believe that each individual, company and organization must make their own decision as to how they communicate their positions on political, social and civil rights.”


“By refusing to move the event, L.A. Confidential has communicated their position on the importance of the rights of LGBT people and women loud and clear,” said Cobb.


Katherine Nicholls, the CEO of the magazine’s parent company, Niche Media Holdings, also issued a statement, claiming that “to boycott all companies and hotels with affiliations and ownership in nations that do not share our beliefs would cause serious financial harm and damage to the Los Angeles community, and the American economy.”


Nicholls’ statement also expressed concerns about the welfare of the employees of the Sultan’s hotels, and the impact that a boycott could have on them. However, the leadership of the hotel has already promised that they’d “protect” its employees from actions against the hotel, and that their jobs, salaries, and income from tips will be “secured.”


“Claiming that moving their party would harm Los Angeles’ or the nation’s economy is almost laughable, and clearly a last ditch effort to deflect criticism,” said Cobb.  “We called on the leadership of the magazine to change hotels--not the city or the country--as dozens of other organizations have chosen to in the months since the Sultan passed these horrific laws.”


Last April the Sultan ––who is the absolute ruler of Brunei and is one of the world’s wealthiest people––announced that Brunei’s penal codes would be updated with new draconian measures, which would mostly impact women and the LGBT community.  These include such horrific punishments as amputation, flogging, and worse for a variety of so-called “offenses.” Beginning as soon as the end of this year, members of the LGBT community could be stoned to death for engaging in relations with one another.


At the time, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned Brunei’s penal code reforms, saying it was "deeply concerned" and that this could “encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation.” The Human Rights Campaign, other civil rights organizations, as well as prominent citizens and leaders in business, government, and philanthropy have widely condemned these draconian laws, and have urged all citizens to stay away from the Sultan’s hotels.


LGBT citizens in many countries around the world remain persistent targets of harassment, arrest, and violence.  Though it has long been the case that LGBT Bruneians and LGBT travelers to Brunei are considered criminals for simply being who they are, this decision means that Brunei will soon become the tenth nation that includes the death penalty as an option for “punishing” LGBT people.

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