Four contesting bills to legalise equal marriage and constitutionally ban it were both brought before the Hawaii State House on Thursday.

Hawaiian lawmakers recently submitted four pieces of legislation: two legalising and two banning equal marriage.

Democrat Faye P Hanohano is the sole sponsor of House Bill 1109, which seeks to legalise equal marriage in Hawaii.

The Bill states, “It is the intent of the legislation to extend to same-sex couples the right to marry and to receive all the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage as opposite-sex couples receive under the laws of this State.”

Democrat Mike Gabbard and 14 other representatives from both parties have introduced an amendment to the Hawaiian constitution that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

Republican John Mizuno has introduced two pieces of legislation, one legalising equal marriage, the other limiting it to heterosexual couples.

Mr Mizuno explained that he was personally in favour of “traditional” marriage, but he thought the people of Hawaii should be able to decide democratically.

A Hawaii State Supreme Court opinion made 20 years ago has been credited with starting the equal marriage debate in America.

In Baehr v Lewin, Justice Steven Levinson said, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of the person’s civil rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of race, religion, sex or ancestry.”

A 2011 poll showed that 49% of Hawaiians support equal marriage and 40% oppose it.