Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has reversed an executive order that protected gay state employees from discrimination, the Washington Post reported.

An executive order signed by McDonnell on February 5 includes protections for race, sex, religion and age, but not sexual orientation. It replaces orders by Virginia's last two Democratic governors which included protections for gay and lesbian workers.

McDonnell had criticized his predecessors for protecting gay workers in their similar executive orders. As attorney general, McDonnell said the inclusion exceeded the authority of the governor's office and that only the General Assembly could enact such anti-discrimination measures.

In a historic first, the Virginia Senate approved such a bill last week, but the measure faces a nearly insurmountable incline in the Republican-controlled House.

Upon taking office on January 16, McDonnell said the previous order signed by Democrat Tim Kaine remained in effect, with the exception of the portions on sexual orientation.

McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said in a statement that the new order was necessary “to ensure compliance with state law.”

Johnson said the governor strongly opposes discrimination and pointed to a recent memo distributed to staffers that says the McDonnell administration prohibits discrimination “for any reason.”

“Hiring, promotion, discipline and termination of employees shall be based on qualifications, performance and results,” the memo says in part.