The Dorchester, Stonewall & the social media backlash

Yesterday morning (Friday 15 May 2014), Stonewall, an LGB UK charity, published an article in The Telegraph, and re-posted a link on their Facebook page

StonewallThe article was written by interim Chief Executive Ruth Hunt and described the reasons why Stonewall are not boycotting The Dorchester Collection hotel chain, whilst many celebrities and LGB campaigning organisations have done. Stonewall use the Dorchester Collection hotels for a number of events. The boycott has been called because of Brunei's recent implementation of a homophobic law making it illegal to be gay in Brunei, punishable by stoning to death. The Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Government. 

Stonewall use the argument that rather than boycotting, they are wanting to work with the hotel chain to create a safer environment for LGBT people in Brunei. They also say, in the article, "I do not believe the somewhat beleaguered Christopher Cowdray, Chief Executive of the Collection, can somehow influence the implementation of Sharia criminal code in Brunei. He can’t."

Stonewall TwitterThis position, however, is not proving popular amongst the UK LGB community. Thirty comments below the Telegraph article are largely heavily critical of Stonewall's article. Since posting on Facebook,  the article has received 61 likes, but 144 comments vehemently disagreeing with Stonewall's position (as at midday Saturday), and only 2 in support. 

Many supporters are claiming that they will  cancel their direct debits, many are publicly decrying Stonewall as not representative of the LGB community and that "Stonewall is wrong", or that Stonewall does not care about LGB rights. There has even been a call for a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #stonewalldisgrace which appears to be gaining momentum.

Stonewall are yet to officially respond via Facebook, or of their official channels. In fact, the most recent response, yesterday evening, was direct from the Interim Chief Exec - you can read the composite response below.

Ruth Hunt response

Time will tell whether this will have a larger impact on Stonewall and its relationships with all their supporters - and whether they will reflect on the feedback of the people they represent and modify their position.

**UPDATE** (as of Monday 19 May) Time did indeed tell. Stonewall has officially responded today to say that they have listened to feedback from their supporters and have taken the decision to stop using the Dorchester collection, in the words of Ruth Hunt: 

"I can confirm that we will not be using the Dorchester for our future events.  We simply do not need this distraction from the vital work of promoting respect for the human rights of LGBT people the world over."

Stonewall will also be in touch with supporters to open a dialogue about boycotts in other homophobic countries.