Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday issued a memo stating that federal law explicitly prohibits workplace discrimination against transgender people.

The Justice Department previously suggested in litigation that transgender people were not covered by Title VII, which bans sex discrimination.

Holder's memo clarifies the federal government's position, which is that “sex” under Title VII includes discrimination “because an employee's gender identification is of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned to another sex.”

Ilona Turner, legal director at the Transgender law Center, applauded the move in a statement.

“We are thrilled to see this clear commitment from the Department of Justice on the issue of transgender rights,” she said. “No longer will our government be arguing that transgender people are excluded from the protections of the law. This announcement will have far-reaching effects for transgender people both within the federal workforce and beyond, influencing the courts as well as other employers looking at their legal obligations under Title VII. Our communities remain disproportionately unemployed and living in poverty. Legal protections against discrimination can make a real difference.”