Gov. Linda Lingle has called a 3 p.m. news conference to announce her decision on the civil unions bill.
Today is the deadline for the Republican governor, who leaves office in December, to veto House Bill 444, sign it into law or allow the measure to become law without her signature. The bill has been on Lingle’s desk since shortly after lawmakers passed it in late April.
Supporters and opponents of civil unions have gathered at the state Capitol in anticipation of Lingle’s decision.
The measure grants gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples. If Lingle gives her approval, Hawaii would become one of six states — along with California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — to grant essentially all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.
Five other states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage: Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
State House leaders have said they will not try to override any of Lingle’s vetoes.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, the state GOP and some religious leaders oppose it. The state Democratic Party, other religious leaders and gay rights groups back it.
Supporters and opponents held signs at different ends of the Capitol facing Beretania Street this morning.
Four people opposed to HB 444 were at the corner of Beretania and Punchbowl, including Judy Canady, who recited the Lord’s Prayer while carrying a sign that read, "Praying The Rosary For American."
"We’re praying for world peace," she said.
Michael Whitcraft flew into Honolulu from Spring Grove, Penn. to carry a sign that read "God’s Marriage = 1 Man & 1 Woman." Whitcraft and John Carlos wore matching green sport coats, white dress shirts, ties and khaki pants. They represent a Pennsylvania group called Traditional Family and Property.
"We always wear a coat and tie," Whitcraft said. "We believe there is a profound moral crisis in society."
Further along Beretania Street, directly in front of the state Capitol, a much larger group of about three dozen people continued to swell as the day progressed.
Doran Porter carried a sign that read, "Equality Now" and has immediate plans to formalize a civil union with his partner, Koli Halik, if the bill becomes law.
"We’ll get married as quickly as possible," he said, in a ceremony performed by a minister.
"I support equal rights for both straight and gay couples," said Jim Yoshioka, of Kaimuki.
S.E. Schofield said gays, lesbians and transgendered people "have the right to make families and the state needs to recognize that we need to have equality in making those families."
Meanwhile, a group of about 20 civil unions opponents raised their hands, closed their eyes and said blessings in front of the office doors of key lawmakers. They wore white shirts in a show of unity and buttons declaring "iVote," a promise of consequences come November if civil unions become law.
"All we’re doing is praying," said Dennis Arakaki, executive director for the Hawaii Family Forum. "We’ve done what we could. Now it’s her decision."
There appeared to be extra security at the Capitol this morning.
Honolulu police patrolled on Segways and bicycles in addition to the deputy sheriffs, who normally provide state Capitol security.
James Propotnick, the deputy director of law enforcement, said there were no problems this morning between the supporters and opponents of the measure.
About 60 percent of the more than 34,000 letters, telephone calls, e-mails and other communications from the public to the governor asked her to veto the measure, the governor’s aides said late last week.
The governor’s office said only news media with credentials will be allowed in to today’s news conference.
The Associated Press contributed to this story