Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle has vetoed a bill that would have recognized gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, the AP reported.

Lingle waited until the last possible day to announce her decision.

The Republican governor said she rejected the bill because it was too similar to marriage.

“I find that House Bill 444 is essentially same sex marriage by another name,” Lingle said.

The debate over civil unions began last year when the bill easily cleared the House but stalled in the state Senate. The bill was amended to include heterosexual couples, but the session ended without a debate. When lawmakers reconvened in January, senators approved the amended version of the measure but House leaders left the bill unattended until the final day of the legislative session in April. Late on that day, House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro made a motion to bring back the measure. Oshiro, an openly gay Democrat, previously denied he would revive the measure.

Lingle's decision is expected to be the final say on the long debate for now because lawmakers failed to approve the measure with a veto-proof majority. Still, some gay rights advocates are calling on the Legislature to override the governor's veto.

“Governor Lingle has rejected the will of the state Legislature and the advice of countless business and faith leaders and turned her back on the committed couples and Hawaii kin who have expressed their support for this measure,” Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group that lobbies for marriage equality throughout the nation, said.

“Freedom to Marry urges the Hawaii state Legislature to overrule Governor Lingle's veto and take an important step towards fairness and equal protection for same-sex couples in Hawaii,” he added.

Hawaii was the first state to grapple with gay marriage when the state Supreme Court struck down a law that limited marriage to heterosexual couples in 1993. But in approving a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a heterosexual union, voters overturned the decision in 1998.

In rejecting the civil unions bill, Lingle also blasted Democrats for reviving the legislation on the last day of the session.

“The legislative maneuvering that brought House Bill 444 to an 11th-hour vote on the final day of the session … after the legislators led the public to believe that the bill was dead, was wrong and unfair,” she said.

House leaders announced Friday they would not attempt to override any of the governor's vetoes.