Gay state workers in Kentucky have lost rights to anti discrimination laws after a new governor made changes to the 2003 employment policy.

Governor Ernie Fletcher announced the new law as part of the state’s “Diversity Day,” he replaced former Governor Paul Patton’s law with one that prohibits employment discrimination because of “race, colour, national origin, sex, age, religion, veteran status and disability,” but no longer sexuality.

Mr Patton’s policy had included protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The change was criticised by lawmakers, gay Senator Ernesto Scorsone called it “open season on gay state employees.”

Brett Hall, a spokesman for Mr Fletcher said there was no intention to discriminate against gay workers, he said: “This is in no way to discriminate against anyone.”

He highlighted concerns that a policy on sexual orientation would be too broad after disputes about which toilets transgender people use, “These types of special privileges are not only difficult to comply with, but it’s very expensive.”

One representative,. Darryl Owens, called Mr Fletcher’s action “Neanderthal” and said the governor is “taking the state back to the dark ages.”

Representative Kathy Stein couldn’t believe he made this law on Diversity Day, she asked, “How many merit issues does he have to screw up on?”

The Kentucky Fairness Alliance, a gay rights group, called the change a “step backward for civil rights.”