“The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day,” Linda Lingle said yesterday of the bill to allow same-sex civil unions that has been on her desk for two months now. “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.” Briefly and weirdly excusing herself from the responsibility of Hawaii’s voters having elected her — and the legislature, both houses of which passed Bill 444 — to make such hard decisions and to be accountable for them, Lingle vetoed the bill. Gay couples in Hawaii will not, as many advocates hoped, join five other states and the District of Columbia where the essential rights of marriage are bestowed on same-sex pairs. “I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-sex marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially same-sex marriage by another name,” Lingle said yesterday, adding, “There has not been a bill I have contemplated more or an issue I have thought more deeply about during my eight years as governor.” Except, of course, the “issue” of her national political future as a second-term Republican governor from a traditionally liberal state who is barred from running again this year. Surely that one has been contemplated just as much, if not more.