Citing her belief that the debate over civil unions should settled by referendum and not through the state legislature, Hawaii governor Linda Lingle vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have granted same-sex and unwed heterosexual couples the same legal rights as married couples.  Lingle, a 57-year old Republican — and the first female governor in the Aloha state’s history — explained that her decision was based purely on the merits of the legislation, not on her own moral beliefs.  She is quoted by Suzanne Roig in TIME as saying:

“I have been open and consistent to my opposition to same-gender marriage and find that the bill is essentially marriage by another name. My personal opinion is not the basis for my decision … Neither is my veto based on my religious beliefs … I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such of societal importance that it deserves to be decided by all the people in Hawaii.”

All the same, however, Lingle’s decision to leave her veto to the last possible hour (she had until Tuesday to either sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to pass into law without her signature) set the stage for a surreal moment for those on both sides of the issue.  When the governor’s veto was announced at 3:00 pm, the crowd on the statehouse steps reacted powerfully.  Roig notes that some were jubilant, like Denis Arakaki, from the Hawaii Catholic Conference:

“From the morning until after the announcement of her decision, we’ve prayed. Our prayers were answered.”

Others, she continues—like Tambry Y0ung of the Citizens for Equal Rights—stoically acknowledged the day’s events as a temporary setback:

“We’ve given her as much information as possible,” Young says. “We’re definitely disappointed … [Lingle] moved civil rights backwards today.” But, she adds, “We’ll continue on.

And continue on they shall.  While the legislative option appears tapped-out until at least January, gay rights activists from all over the country have already begun mobilizing a new strategy.  Much like the reaction to Arizona’s anti-immigration legislation (SB 1070), proponents of Hawaii’s civil unions bill are beginning to organize a tourist boycott against the state.  According to an AP report that can be found in the Christian Science Monitor:

“[T]he Internet was abuzz with expressions of anger, with Twitter users from California to New York urging people to avoid the Aloha State and at least two mainland bloggers asking readers if a boycott was justified.”

Will the boycotts be carried out?  If so, will they help the plight of gay rights activists or hurt them?  While the answers to these questions, and others, remain up in the air, people like Tambry Young appear emboldened by their movement’s similarity to that of a certain Dr. King’s.  After the veto was announced, the Huffington Post reports, a group of 100 of the bill’s supporters joined together and sang the powerful Civil Rights era hymn, “We Shall Overcome.”