HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor vetoed legislation yesterday that would have permitted same-sex civil unions, ending months of speculation on how she would weigh in on the contentious, emotional debate.
The action by Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican, was taken on the final day she had to either sign or veto the bill, which the Hawaii Legislature passed in late April.
“I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-gender marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially marriage by another name,’’ Lingle said.
The measure would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples.
It also would have made Hawaii one of six states that essentially grant the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself. Five other states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.
State House leaders have said they won’t override any of Lingle’s vetoes.
She said voters should decide the fate of civil unions, not politicians.
Opponents of the measure, including many religious groups, erupted in cheers and hugs when the announcement was made.
“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.’’
Supporters of the bill then shouted “We’ll keep fighting!’’ and “Let’s go!’’
“We had hoped the governor would do the right thing for civil rights and equality,’’ Lee Yarbrough of Honolulu said while standing with his partner. “This battle is far from over.’’