A bill to ban discrimination against gay people in state employment has been killed by a Virgina House panel.

Currently, Virgina gives no legal protection lesbians and gays employed by the state, although it does offer employees protection from discrimination on the basis of race, gender and a number of other characteristics.

Sexual orientation was removed from the law last year and a bill tabled by Senator Donald McEachin sought to have it reinstated.

Yesterday, the Republican-controlled House General Laws subcommittee voted to kill it, plus another which sought to give health benefits to same-sex partners.

Delegate Todd Gilbert, the chair of the panel, had earlier said that if the issue was really a problem, people would be queuing out of the door to complain about it.

People did indeed queue out of the door yesterday to testify in support of the bill, Associated Press reports.

Some described how they had been pushed out of jobs after coming out, or were too fearful to reveal their sexual orientation.

Gay group Equality Virginia argues that private employers have long since recognised that anti-discrimination policies allow them to keep the best staff.

All of the states top ten private employers protect gay workers, it says.

The group adds that polls of the public have found that 85 per cent think gays and lesbians should be protected from discrimination in all workplaces.