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Hawaii's governor vetoes gay civil union bill

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle on Tuesday vetoed a domestic partnership bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to gain most of the benefits and protections of marriage by registering civil unions.

The state, like many others in the United States, has debated fiercely whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. Hawaii's supreme court in 1993 found banning gay marriage was unconstitutional, but voters in 1998 amended the state constitution to allow such a ban.

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.

Nationwide, voters have consistently rejected same-sex marriage.

Five states -- Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, through judicial or legislative actions.

A California federal court is considering whether that state's ban on gay marriage breaks equal protection and due process guarantees in the federal constitution, a case that supporters and opponents want to appeal as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.

Five states have laws that give same-sex couples marriage-like benefits, including, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Nevada and Washington. The vast majority of U.S. states define the term marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Eric Walsh)