It looks like a series of misunderstandings has brought Spa World in Centreville a spate of fast, intense publicity in recent days, mostly bad. But it has also shined a spotlight on the fact that Fairfax County and Virginia have no laws prohibiting discrimination by businesses against members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered community.
Spa World claims to be the largest Asian-style spa in the United States, with over 50,000 square feet in a large strip mall just off Lee Highway and Route 28, in the same complex with a Glory Days Grill and an IHOP. Gregg MacDonald in the Fairfax County Times reported last week that the spa had ejected a transgendered woman after receiving complaints. When the woman filed her own complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Spa World responded in writing that, “It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s).”
Uh oh. And this in the same week that the City Paper did a cover story in which a reporter spent almost 24 hours in the spa and made it seem at least intriguing, if slightly boring.
As the ejection story spread, a manager and spokesman for Spa World told the City Paper and Metro Weekly that its policy does not prohibit gay people, only open sexual conduct, and that the person filing the response did not use proper English. The manager told City Paper’s Will Sommer that they were “caught off guard” by the transgendered woman and that they have no policy against transgender customers.
But that does not obscure the fact that what Spa World did wasn’t illegal. Equality Virginia, an advocacy group for the LGBT community, ramped up a petition urging Spa World to change their policy. And Rishi Awatramani of Virginia New Majority, an Alexandria-based political action group, told MacDonald, “There is nothing in the Virginia or the Fairfax County code that protects gender expression or sexual orientation discrimination. It is kind of unbelievable, but true.”
Will anyone go so far as to propose legislation that would prohibit such a policy? In Fairfax County, that’s one thing. In the Virginia General Assembly, that’s quite another.
“This should be unacceptable in 2013,” James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia told WJLA-7. “Our state shouldn’t be allowing this to happen.”
Here’s a video story by WJLA-7’s Mike Conneen in which Spa World manager James Lee again clarifies that the massive spa does not have a policy of discrimination.