Gov. Jennifer Granholm has issued an order that bars discrimination against state workers based on their "gender identity or expression," which protects the rights of those who behave, dress or identify as members of the opposite sex.

The order adds gender identity to a list of other prohibited grounds for discrimination that include religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, height, weight, marital status, politics, disability or genetic information.

"State employment practices and procedures that encourage nondiscriminatory and equal employment practices provide desirable models for the private sector and local governments," says the resolution, which Granholm signed Wednesday.

The Triangle Foundation, a Michigan-based group advocating rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, praised Granholm's action.

"Coming out as transgender is a career-ender. Transgendered people lose their jobs all the time," foundation policy director Sean Kosofsky told the Detroit Free Press. He said the group began urging the state employment policy change in 2003.

James Muffet, president of Citizens for Traditional Values, expressed doubt about the seriousness of sexual identity discrimination in state government. He said Granholm more likely was making a political gesture toward gay rights groups that backed her 2006 re-election bid.