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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he plans to sign an executive order formally protecting transgender federal workers from discrimination at work.

While mostly symbolic, the announcement is being hailed as an important act of recognition for transgender Americans and their workplace struggles.

Obama in 2009 signed a presidential memorandum saying the federal government shouldn't discriminate against workers for reasons unrelated to their job performance. That memo was interpreted as offering blanket protection to workers whose gender identity doesn't correspond with their gender at birth.

Obama's forthcoming executive order is expected to formally protect transgender workers by adding gender identity to a list of other protected classes such as race, religion and sexual orientation.

Obama announced the move Monday during a White House reception marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

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