A judge who is attuned to social issues has ruled that a Washington spa must permit individuals assigned male at birth to access its women-only nude spa. The spa, which is operated by Christians and follows the customs of a traditional Korean bathhouse, had its religious beliefs and cultural practices disregarded by the judge.
Olympus Spa, a spa with locations in Lynnwood and Tacoma in Washington, strives to offer women a lavish experience inspired by traditional Korean jjimjilbang bathhouses. One aspect of this experience is a traditional Korean bathing pool where clients are required to bathe without clothing.
In Korean culture, these pools are segregated by sex, and the Christian owners of the spa believe that preserving modesty between genders is still significant. However, demonstrating their tolerance, they permitted transgender individuals who have undergone surgery to remove their male genitalia, known as trans-identified males (TIMs), to access the spa.
In the year 2020, a transgender individual known as Haven Wilvich filed a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) against Olympus Spa, alleging that his membership application had been denied due to the spa’s policy of excluding transgender women who had not undergone surgery.
However, there is no existing record at the spa indicating that Wilvich had actually submitted a membership application. Despite this, in March 2021, the WSHRC issued an order to Olympus Spa, instructing them to eliminate any references to biological women from their website and to grant unrestricted access to transgender individuals without imposing any restrictions.
Following the outcome of the case, Wilvich promptly celebrated his triumph on social media, where he made statements asserting that he possessed a higher degree of womanhood compared to cisgender women because he had intentionally chosen to identify as a woman, while they were only women incidentally by birth. Conversely, the owners of the spa expressed their discontent with the ruling and decided to take legal action against the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC), alleging that their First Amendment rights had been violated.
On June 5, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein of the US District Court made a decision to dismiss the spa’s lawsuit against the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC). The judge upheld the demand made by the state agency, which required the spa to remove any mentions or references to biological females from its website. Additionally, the judge ruled that the spa owners must ensure that their employees, who had previously declined to provide scrubs and other treatments to trans-identified males with male genitalia, undergo training focused on promoting inclusivity.