Social conservatives in Hawaii held a large rally Sunday at the State Capitol to protest a bill that would recognize gay couples with civil unions.

The bill ran aground during last year's legislative session after over 6,000 anti-gay protesters stormed the Capitol the Sunday before a key Senate committee vote. The bill deadlocked on a 3-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The final tally came after a grueling 18 hour marathon hearing that ended at 3AM.

Six senators voted in favor of pulling the bill from committee and putting it up for a vote, but the effort fell short of the 9 votes needed to move the bill. A second effort just days before the end of the legislative session succeeded in retrieving the bill. Senators quickly amended the bill to include both gay and straight couples but the session ended without a vote on the measure.

The amended bill needs the approval of both chambers of the Legislature to move to the governor's desk. Previously, the House approved the original bill on a 33 to 17 vote.

Opponents of gay rights say they are determined to keep the bill down as legislators reconvene on Wednesday.

“The polls show that the people don't want it. This civil unions bill is too close to being a same-sex marriage bill,” Garrett Hashimoto, chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, the group sponsoring Sunday's rally, told the Star Bulletin.

Republican Governor Linda Lingle has remained silent on whether she would sign the bill, but Democratic leaders concede she likely wouldn't, which puts Democrats in a tight spot during an election year.

Hawaii House Speaker Calvin Say, a Democrat from St. Louis Heights, has already said a vote is unlikely unless the Senate can deliver a veto-proof majority.

“It will be a distraction, because it's a very emotional issue,” Say told the Honolulu Advertiser. “You know, people have always said to me in the past that during an election year you don't want to address these social issues.”

“And that's the political reality that we all face as elected officials,” he added.

A veto-proof majority in both chambers remains a viable outcome. Last year, sufficient lawmakers expressed support for the original bill. And several senators have suggested they could support the amended version.

However, lawmakers in other states, including New York and New Jersey, have become increasingly reluctant to vote in favor of gay rights measures as social conservatives ratchet up their opposition to gay rights, especially measures that recognize gay unions.

Early reports estimate thousands of people dressed in white attended the rally to urge lawmakers to kill the civil unions bill.