Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle once promised she would sign gay unions legislation if lawmakers approved such a law.

Lingle remains the final obstacle for a gay-inclusive civil unions bill to overcome.

The bill – sponsored by openly gay House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro – was left for dead last January when lawmakers voted to shelve it after senators had overwhelmingly approved the measure. But on the last day of the legislative session Oshiro made a motion to bring it back. Representatives then voted in favor of the measure in a 31-to-20 vote.

But while the Senate's approval was veto-proof, House members fell short by 3 votes.

Leaving Lingle the final arbitrator on whether the state will recognize gay unions or not. Lingle has 45 days to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature. Officially that's July 6, but she'll need to make up her mind by June 22. That's the day she'll inform lawmakers about which bills she is planning to reject.

Eight years ago, Lingle promised she would vote in favor of a bill that granted gay couples similar rights, according to the Star Bulletin.

“On the issue of domestic partnerships, I have stated that if the Legislature [should] pass legislation granting certain rights I would not veto that legislation,” Lingle answered PBS Hawaii moderator Linda Taira during a live debate.

The Republican governor, however, has since remained mum on the issue. And has chided lawmakers for not focusing on the economy during the current session.

Opponents of the measure say they'll appeal to Lingle's fiscal conservatism in an attempt to derail the legislation from becoming law. Dennis Arakaki, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum and Hawaii Catholic Conference, groups opposed to gay rights, told the paper that the civil unions law, which includes heterosexual couples, could raise benefit costs for businesses.

Gay groups say they'll return to court if Lingle rejects the legislation.

Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal was already on the ground preparing to file a challenge when the House approved the bill. “We're delighted that, as long as Governor Lingle does not veto the bill, our lawsuit won't be necessary,” she said.

The Hawaii Supreme Court was the first to rule laws limiting marriage to heterosexual unions were unconstitutional in 1993, but the court issued a stay in the matter. By 1998, voters had passed by a large majority (70%) a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (The Hawaii ruling also prompted passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.)

If approved, Hawaii would join New Jersey in recognizing gay couples with civil unions. Other states – including Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California – offer gay couples many of the rights and obligations of marriage with domestic partnerships. Five mostly New England states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa – and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. Two states, New York and Maryland, recognize gay marriages performed outside their borders.