Since they filed their complaint, the Mathises have moved to the Denver suburb of Aurora because of health problems suffered by another daughter. They said they hope the ruling will make it easier for Coy to start at a new school without worrying about which bathroom she can use.
Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 declined to discuss the case Monday. The district, however, can seek arbitration or a public trial, said Cory Everett-Lozano, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
Silverman said transgendered civil rights are largely where gay rights were in the 1980s. He said progress in gay rights has made it easier for transgendered people to dare to fight in court.
Coy, he said, is such an example. Her parents grew up during a more tolerant era for sexual rights and recognized that they should not try to force her to be a boy. "That has allowed children like Coy to make their voices heard," Silverman said.
Last year, Vice President Joe Biden called transgendered rights "the civil rights issue of our time." Sixteen states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia expressly outlaw discrimination against transgendered people. In 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the firing of a Georgia state legislative employee who was dismissed after telling her boss she was about to undergo sex change surgery.
"We're at a crisis point" on transgendered rights, said M. Dru Levasseur, director of the Transgender Rights Project Director at the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, adding that 44 percent of hate-motivated murders in 2010 were of transgendered women. "Transgendered people don't always fit in binary boxes so there has been more difficulty in social acceptance" compared to gay people.
Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said there is clearly "a new social movement," which his group opposes, to protect the rights of transgendered people in court and state legislatures.
"In many places, the activists have already succeeded in having sexual orientation" protected, Sprigg said. But expanding those rights to transgendered people may be tougher because that population's behavior is more overtly different, he said.
"Sexual orientation is largely invisible," Sprigg said. "In this case, you're dealing with something that's manifest visibly."