Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, on Thursday signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity among state employees and contractors.

During an order signing ceremony at the University of Virginia, McAuliffe was joined by Attorney General Mark Herring, who refused to defend in court Virginia's constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. In 2015, the Supreme Court rendered such bans unenforceable.

“This policy helps ensure that all Virginians receive full benefits of citizenship regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” McAuliffe said before signing his order.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish called the order “a huge leap forward” in a press release.

“Today’s executive order is a huge leap forward in our goal toward becoming a state that is a safe, welcoming and equal place for all Virginians,” said Parrish “We are grateful for the continued leadership demonstrated by Gov. McAuliffe on gay and transgender issues.”

“This policy is simply good business practice – taxpayers should expect that their money will not be used to support organizations that discriminate,” he added.

McAuliffe signed his order just days after a Republican lawmaker introduced a measure that targets the transgender community.

(Related: Virginia Republican introduces transgender “bathroom bill.”)

“Stay away from the socially divisive issues,” he warned lawmakers at the event. “We are not going to put a wall up around Virginia.”