The governor of Hawaii has vetoed a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions.
Gov. Linda Lingle said Tuesday that voters and not politicians should decide the fate of civil unions.
"There has not been a bill I have contemplated more or an issue I have thought more deeply about during my eight years as governor than House Bill 444 and the institution of marriage," Lingle said at a news conference. "I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-sex marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially same-sex marriage by another name."
The state's House of Representatives approved the measure last April. The bill would have given gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits as married couples without authorizing marriage itself.
For several weeks, Lindle heard statements from both supporters and opponents of the bill before announcing her decision.
About 60 percent of the more than 34,000 letters, telephone calls, e-mails and other communications from the public to the governor asked her to veto the measure, the governor's aides said late last week.
"What she did was very just, and I'm very happy about it," said Jay Amina, 50, of Waianae. "It sends a good message throughout the state of Hawaii - that our people here on the islands are standing for traditional marriage."
The Aloha State has been a battleground in the gay rights movement since the early 1990s. In 1993, a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling almost made Hawaii the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage before voters overwhelmingly approved the nation's first "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment in 1998.
"We had hoped the governor would do the right thing for civil rights and equality," Lee Yarbrough of Honolulu said while standing arm-in-arm with his partner. "This battle is far from over."
Five other states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.