In announcing her decision to veto a civil unions bill approved by lawmakers, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle insisted she had treated supporters of a civil unions bill with “respect and dignity.” But in her first interview since that announcement, Lingle likened gay marriage to an incestuous relationship.

Saying the legislation had “touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day,” Lingle sounded concerned about how the bill would affect all the people of Hawaii.

“I hope that the citizens on both sides of this issue have felt that I've treated them with respect and dignity throughout this process,” she told reporters on Thursday.

In a radio interview Friday, Lingle defended her decision and rejected the idea that legal recognition of gay unions is a civil rights issue.

“For those people who want to make this into a civil rights issue, and of course those in favor of the bill, they see it as a civil rights issue,” she said. “And I understand them drawing that conclusion. But people on the other side would point out, well, we don't allow other people to marry even – it's not a civil right for them. First cousins couldn't marry, or a brother and a sister and that sort of thing.”

“It really can't be a civil right if we are restricting it in other cases, and it's been found to be legal in those other cases, that the restrictions.”

Eight years ago, candidate Lingle said she would not veto a bill that recognizes gay and lesbian unions with domestic partnerships.

“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 moderator Linda Taira during a live debate.

Lingle argued that the proposed civil unions bill was too similar to marriage.

Gay groups have announced they will continue the fight in court.