The US Labor Department is to give gay workers equal access to unpaid leave when caring for a newborn or loved one.

It is expected to announce the change today, to bring medical leave for gay couples in line with rights given to straight couples.

Since 1993, heterosexual couples have been allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or loved ones, such as in the case of a sick relative, a newborn baby or a new adopted child.

The change will give the same right to gay couples.

Associated Press reports that giving the right to gay couples will not require any legislative change, as the Labor Department will use a new interpretation of the current law.

However, this means it can be rolled back by future presidents.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama expanded benefits for the partners of gay federal employees.

The new rights, which build on those granted by the administration last June, include access to medical treatment, relocation assistance, child-care services and fitness centres.

However, further changes such granting full equal health rights, would require congressional action.

Mr Obama is due to hold a reception for Pride at the White House this evening.