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An exclusive: Olympus Spa attorney speaks on transgender policy complaint

LYNNWOOD, Wash., June 14, 2023—In collaboration with the Lynnwood Times, Jonathan Choe, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and Journalist, sat down with Olympus Spa attorney, Tracy Tribbet of Pacific Justice Institute on Monday, June 12, where she shared that her client is willing to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal judge mandated the business to allow pre-op transgender women into its female-exclusive establishment.

The trans rights movement is celebrating a victory after a Western Washington District Court judge last week ordered Lynnwood-based Olympus spa to allow pre-op transwomen access to its female-exclusive facilities after a complaint filed with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) by a Haven Wilvich. A rally in support of the spa is planned for Saturday, June 17, at 2 p.m. near its Lynnwood location.

A ”TERF” counter rally is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on the same day organized by Trans Antifaschistische Aktion, a militant anti-fascist group. According to the flier, viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter, the pro-spa rally organizers are “a transphobic group of white women pretending to be feminists.” The Antifa announcement called on supporters to “MASK UP, UMBRELLA UP, and be ready to shut these fascist terfs DOWN.”

TERF is a derogatory acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. The announcement was promoted by a David Zachary Alvey (“Riot Dad”), of Vancouver, Washington. Both journalists Andy Ngo and Brandi Kruse, who are listed as “fascist scum” attendees in Antifa flier, have publicly denied they were invited to attend the rally and also shared publicly that they will not be attending Saturday’s rally.

The Interview with Olympus Spa attorney Tracy Tribbet

Olympus Spa owner, Sun Lee, previously deferred all questions about the complaint, and subsequent lawsuit against the Commission, to his attorney when the Lynnwood Times reached out regarding this story.

“My client is a traditional Korean spa, they are Christian, and their clientele are all women and they always have been. Part of that process is nudity. It’s not optional nudity, it’s not you have a towel around you nudity, it is a bonafide requirement and it’s part of the service,” Tribbet told Choe.

She continued,“Our clients believe in modesty, they do not believe between the sexes that women and men should be naked amongst each other…they also feel that it is inappropriate, from a Christian standpoint, to have women and men nude who are not together, who are not married. And they believe in certain speech, that they should be able to voice on their website, that is in alignment with their Christian viewpoint. That is the speech that was made to be changed by the state.”

Tribbet informed Choe that the lawsuit Olympus Spa filed against the Washington State Human Rights Commission, argued the order was against their first amendment rights as Christians and business owners, and was dismissed “without prejudice.” They plan to modify their complaint, add some claims and facts, and refile. Tribbet suspects the state will file a motion of dismissal again which, at that time, she and her client will appeal.

“We feel that will give us the greatest opportunity to appeal this all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court,”said Tribbet.

Tribbet also made the point that complainant, Haven Wilvich, underwent gender reassignment surgery less than two months after filing her complaint with the WSHRC. She suspects Wilvich knew the surgery was scheduled yet still complained about being refused entry. Tribbet also shared that Wilvich claimed the owner (Lee) directly denied her entry but Tribbet says that is not true and there is no record of her even visiting the spa at all.

When the Lynnwood Times asked Wilvich about this, she explained that she was invited to the spa through a women’s group gathering and called ahead of time to ask if she would be allowed in. It was at this time, she said, when she was told “transgender women without surgery are not welcome because it could make other customers and staff uncomfortable,” court records state.

Instead of the WSHRC investigation further, which Tribbet says is its function, they replied “the time for you to ensure Haven Wilvich does not feel discriminated against has passed. You must change your website language to ‘biological women’ to ‘women’.”

Olympus Spa has adhered to this order, facing the threat of referral to the Attorney General’s Office for legal action. The portion of the spa’s case where they did get a favorable outcome was that they had standing, Tribbet said. A large part of the Attorney General’s Office’s brief, or legal writing, was that the spa had no standing. They had no harm, no live case or controversy, because they had settled the case in a pre-finding settlement where they agreed to change their website’s language, that they would change their policies and procedures, as deemed appropriate by the WSHRC, and that they would review all of the information sent to them by the Commission.

“When faced with the threat of a suit by the Attorney General’s Office any business owner is going to try and finalize something before it gets too litigious, and out of hand, and too expensive, and they were afraid, and they were threatened,” said Tribbet. “The Attorney General’s Office said ‘hey there’s no big deal, they agreed to this, there’s no harm’ but, fortunately for us, the judge said no they did have harm, they were threatened by the AG’s office, with the threat of suit. So, they were forced and compelled to change their speech.”

The crux of the issue with the case is neutral laws of applicability, Tribbet continued.

A neutral law of general applicability need only pass a rational basis review – meaning that law only has to be rationally related to the goals at hand. In this case, the judge said the Washington law against discrimination was relationally related to preventing discrimination. Tribbet and her client are arguing that, as applied, the Washington laws against discrimination is “being employed as this weapon against conservative Christian values and they are protecting this certain subset of individuals, in a protected class which is transgenders, against a mass of other protected individuals like women.”

“It bears noting that men have always been discriminated against in the spa. They’ve never allowed men, and the WSHRC has no issue with that,” said Tribbet. “We’re trying to get the court to recognize that there is a time, a place, and a manor for the restriction on entry for transgender individuals.”

As a result of Wilvich’s complaint, Tribbet added that Sun Lee’s business has taken a [financial] hit because women are worried about their “bodily autonomy.” His family has been stricken with fear and anxiety.

“This is just license for individuals who are mentally ill to come in and take advantage of a situation where women who are vulnerable. It also boils down to an essential taking, by the government, of these people’s business because no woman is going to go into a spa where they have to be [naked],” said Tribbet. “It’s one thing to be okay, in exchange for a service, if you pay for it an know that a man can see you naked on the other side of the doors but when you go and pay for the exclusivity of women company, that’s what you expect. This would be ruinous to the business of Olympus Sap and tantamount to a taking by the state because it changes the entirety of its business structure.”

Tribbet also noted that, since there has always been restrictions of entry at the spa, it’s not a public facility – it’s “quasi public.”

Choe asked Tribbet, now that Wilvich has undergone bottom surgery, if that was enough to which Tribbet replied, “That person can come in now because no one would know the difference. You present as a female you’re allowed entry and that has always been their position — they’re not going to pry into people’s surgery histories. If you present as a female you’re allowed entry to this spa, that should be sufficient.”

“A person who is two months away from gender reassignment surgery who complains and tries to ruin and destroy this business, that’s harmful, if not, malignant intent,”said Tribbet.

Olympus Spa, represented by Tribbet, has 30 days to refile their complaint.

Washington State law, under RCW 49.60.030, grants the right to be free from discrimination because of “race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, sex, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation…”

Under that statute, “sexual orientation” is defined as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity” where “gender expression or identity” is defined as “having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.”

This language was added to the state’s existing discrimination laws through Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2661 which passed the Washington State Legislature in January of 2006 by request of then-Governor Christine Gregoire, for which she signed into law on January 31.

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