Babyface Refuses to Let Sultan of Brunei Ruin Wedding

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Kenneth Babyface Edmonds and Nicole Patenburg (Getty Images)

Babyface is taking a stand before taking to the altar. 

The R&B singer, songwriter, and producer, aka Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, was scheduled to marry fiancée Nicole Patenburg this weekend at the Hotel Bel-Air. Instead, the couple made the last-minute decision to relocate their nuptials to a different, undisclosed location in Beverly Hills.  

The reason: They're just the latest in a growing list of Hollywood power players to take a stand against the Sultan of Brunei, whose newly enacted laws promise harsh penalties, even death, for such acts as homosexuality, theft, or premarital sex.

"Yes, that was the reason they moved it," a publicist for the artist tells Yahoo. "They do think highly of the staff of the Hotel Bel-Air and feel badly that they are caught in the middle of this. The staff were a pleasure to work with."

In recent weeks celebrities as varied as Jay Leno and Sir Richard Branson to Ellen DeGeneres and Kim Kardashian have joined the boycott of the two Los Angeles-based luxury accommodations, the Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel, both owned by the Brunei leader, Hassanal Bolkiah.

                       [Related: Brunei's New Laws Affect Sultan's Hollywood Ties]

Brunei's new law — phase one of which went into effect on May 1 — enforces the most strict of Islamic criminal punishments. In the small but oil-rich country, Muslim citizens can now be fined or jailed for anything ranging from not performing Friday prayers to getting pregnant out of wedlock.

When the final phases are implemented by 2015, adulterers and homosexuals will be subjected to stoning, flogging, and amputation.

"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 said.

Bolkiah — one of the richest men in the world — controls the Brunei Investment Agency, which owns the Dorchester Collection of hotels. The Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel are the Collection's only two U.S. properties. The group also owns eight sites in Europe.

The entertainment industry protest against the two high-profile L.A. hotels has even spawned its own hashtag — #StopTheSultan. Branson (through his Virgin Group) and DeGeneres are among those who have encouraged the boycott on Twitter: 

But the most famous protestor to date has been former "Tonight Show" host Leno, who with his wife, Mavis, joined the protests organized by the Feminist Majority Foundation.

"Hopefully they will do something about it… This is women protecting women," Jay told a large crowd protesting outside the hotel on May 5. "I mean… Berlin, 1933… Hello! Does it seem that far off from what happened during the Holocaust?

"Stoning?" he said to The Wrap. "What century are we in?" 

Leno even made an analogy to another headline-dominating topic. "Let's put it in perspective. The people in the Beverly Hills Hotel are the Clippers. The Sultan is Sterling. We don't blame anyone who works at the hotel. They're just the Clippers players, they're doing their game."

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Jay Leno protests outside of the Beverly Hills Hotel on May 5 (Getty Images)

The Feminist Majority Foundation was the first group to change an event from one of the Dorchester Collection's venues, moving their Global Women's Rights Awards — co-chaired and co-hosted by Jay and Mavis — to the Hammer Museum in Westwood.

Teen Line, which holds an annual luncheon honoring Sony Pictures chairperson Amy Pascal and her sister Jenny Pascal, moved their event last week from the hotel to the Sony lot in Culver City.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund announced that it would move its "The Night Before the Oscars" to a new location in 2015. It's been held at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the past 12 years. And The Hollywood Reporter has said that it plans to relocate its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, that's held each December.

Even Kim Kardashian moved her bridal shower from the Beverly Hills hotel to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills last weekend.

Christopher Cowdray, the CEO of the Dorchester Collection, has said that the protest towards his hotel group is misdirected. He points out that those who will suffer most are the local hotel employees.

"While we recognize people's concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees," he wrote in a statement earlier this month. "The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers. Today's global economy needs to be placed in a broader perspective. Most of us are not aware of the investors behind the brands that have become an integral part of our everyday life, from the gas we put in our cars, to the clothes we wear, to the way we use social media, and to the hotels we frequent. American companies across the board are funded by foreign investment, including Sovereign Wealth Funds."

There has, however, been movement by the Beverly Hills City Council and by the mayor of Beverly Hills, Lili Bosse, to ask the Brunei Investment Agency to divest its interest in at least the Beverly Hills Hotel, to resolve the impact on local residents and hotel employees.


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