Legislation that would create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in the state of Hawaii ran aground early this morning when a 3-3 vote deadlocked the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Committee senators listened to thousands of impassioned pleas from both sides of the issue during a grueling 18 hour marathon hearing session. The vote, which came at 3AM, only served to prove that none of the lawmakers had been swayed from their previously known positions.

Opponents of the bill headed to the Hawaii State Capitol on Sunday to rally against the bill. Thousands attended a church-backed rally where speakers cited Scripture as reason for their opposition to civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Participants wore red to symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ and opposition to the bill, Dennis Arakaki, interim executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, told the Honolulu Star Bulletin.

Backers of House Bill 444 rallied on Monday at an event organized by the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, whose membership includes Christian, Jewish and Buddhist churches.

“We support civil rights, social justice and the dignity of all people,” Rev. Dr. John R. Heidel told the paper. “We basically see this not as a religious issue but as a civil-rights issue, and so we're working for equal rights of all people.”

But while stranded, the bill is far from dead. Senate leaders have vowed to rescue the bill.

Over the weekend, Senate leaders began discussing the possibility of pulling the bill out of committee for a full vote. A maneuver that by law could not happen until March 10.

“Pulling something from committee is an extraordinary situation,” state Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser said. “However, we have the ability to do that in the rules for extraordinary situations.”

The Honolulu Advertiser quotes Hooser as saying he believes he has the supermajority in the Senate needed to overcome a veto.

“I fundamentally believe that it's the right thing to do,” he told the paper. “This is an issue of civil rights and equal rights. It's about treating people equally. It's about contracts under law. This is not legalizing same-sex marriage.”

Hawaii voters defined marriage as a heterosexual union in their state constitution eleven years ago.