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Activists to picket at The Beverly Hills hotel over owner Brunei's homophobic policies

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Supporters of LGBT equality and workers’ rights plan to protest today at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows.

Activists aim to call attention to hotel owner Brunei’s homophobic policies, and the protest is timed to coincide with ASEAN conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

The Beverly Hills hotel is owned by the nation of Brunei, where homosexuality is outlawed. This week, Brunei is hosting the annual summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). According to a report in Gay Star News, Brunei has excluded LGBT groups from the conference, although those groups had participated at previous ASEAN summits Phnom Phenh and Jakarta.

At ASEAN’s last summit in November 2012, the organization outlined a proposal for its first-ever human rights declaration, which would have granted unprecedented rights to oppressed sexual minorities in ASEAN member states. At the urging of Brunei and Malaysia, the final declaration included language that allowed member states to selectively enforce the human rights declaration.

The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration was criticized by leading human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. At the summit in Cambodia, LGBT and human rights organizations protested ASEAN’s failure to include civil society groups in the development of its human rights declaration. Brunei does not allow freedom of speech or assembly, so no protests are expected outside the summit in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Brunei also owns the Bel Air hotel. The Bel Air fired 250 members of its staff after renovating in 2011. Some of the fired employees, who will partake in Thursday’s protest, worked at the hotel for more than 20 years.

Alice Stanford, a member of UNITE HERE and an LGBT activist, said that the hotel’s actions offended her as someone who fights for both gay rights and worker’s rights.

“Brunei is bad on the two issues I care about most,” Stanford said. “People who spend their money at the hotels they own should know that the owners have a bad record on labor rights and an even worse one on equality for LGBT people.”

UNITE HERE is a union that represents more than 250,000 hospitality workers across North America. The union has fought for equal treatment of LGBT people, and contributed significant funds and resources hoping to defeating Proposition 8 in California in 2008.