Hawaii actually kicked off the gay marriage debate in the early 1990s, after their state Supreme Court found a ban on same-sex unions illegal. Voters later changed the state Constitution to allow the ban, but over a decade later, the legislature convincingly passed a bill allowing civil unions. But Hawaii’s outgoing Republican Governor, Linda Lingle, vetoed the bill.

The Hawaii bill would have given gay and lesbian unions status similar to marriage.

Lingle, a Republican, said in a statement that she opposed same-gender marriage and that the bill would have created “marriage by another name.”

State voters rather than the legislature should decide the issue, she added.

Observers would be justified in thinking that Hawaiians have already decided the issue. Eight years ago, before Lingle was elected to her first term, she promised to sign a civil unions bill. She hemmed and hawed until the very last minute with this legislation, however, and ultimately went back on that promise. Her comment that the bill constituted “same sex marriage with a different name” is pretty much the point. Polling has shown the public more comfortable with the phrase civil unions than marriage, which connotes certain traditional tropes about family. I personally find that ridiculous, but it’s a construction created essentially to please those who find same-sex unions icky, and more importantly to Hawaii, to stay within the bounds of the law.

Because the state, under the Supreme Court, still cannot deny protections and benefits to same-sex couples. The constitutional amendment allowed the limiting of marriage to heterosexual couples, but it did not allow discrimination of same-sex couples, which remains illegal. So Lambda Legal and the ACLU will sue the state to get the law upheld. Those civil rights don’t necessarily have to come up for a vote, much as anti-miscegenation laws never did.

Rea Carey, the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a statement, “Governor Lingle’s veto of legislation that would protect and strengthen Hawaii’s families is beyond a disappointment: It is a disgrace. Hawaii’s lawmakers passed this bill because it was about fundamental fairness. The governor’s action today flies in the face of both common sense and common humanity. We urge the Hawaii Legislature to override this veto.” That’s another option, but while the state Senate passed the bill with a veto-proof majority, the state House vote was 31-20, under the 2/3 threshold.

More from Adam Bink, including audio of Gov. Lingle’s press conference.