DENVER — Colorado officials say a suburban Colorado Springs school district discriminated against a 6-year-old transgender girl by preventing her from using the girls' bathroom, in what advocates described as the first such ruling in the next frontier in civil rights.
Coy Mathis's family raised the issue after school officials at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain said the first-grader could use restrooms in either the teachers' lounge or in the nurse's office, but not the girls' bathroom. Coy's parents feared she would be stigmatized and bullied.
On Monday, the Mathis family and its lawyers celebrated the ruling on the steps of the state capitol. Coy, dressed in a glittering tank top, jeans and pink canvas sneakers, ran around a towering blue spruce tree as her mother spoke to reporters.
"Her future will be better if we get to this place where this is nothing to be ashamed of," Kathryn Mathis said, noting the family hadn't sought a civil rights battle but was happy for the Colorado Division of Civil Rights' ruling.
As the gay rights movement has won mounting legal and electoral victories in recent years, advocates hope the latest decision will lend momentum to the struggles of transgendered people.
"This is by far the high-water mark for cases dealing with the rights of transgendered people to access bathrooms," said the Mathis family's attorney, Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. He and other advocates said the case is one of several potentially ground-breaking transgendered civil-rights cases winding their way through the nation's courts.
The Maine Supreme Court is considering the case of a 15-year-old transgendered girl who was forbidden from using her school's girls' bathroom.
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which focuses on religious and family litigation, said transgender cases are "a mockery of civil rights." He said his group got involved defending a department store employee who was disciplined for ordering a person who was obviously male to leave the women's changing room.