INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an apology Friday on his
official Facebook page for his staff’s actions of deleting comments that
were critical of a statement he had made supporting the state’s ban on gay
Pence said Thursday he believed the comments had been removed because they
contained “name-calling and vulgar comments.” But Pence said Friday that he
had reviewed the situation and found that hadn’t always been the case, and
some comments were in fact deleted because they ran counter to his position.
The Republican governor said Friday he had instructed his staff to develop a
policy that does not censor comments based on the opinions they express.
“Hoosiers expect our public debate to be open and respectful and we will
ever seek to live up to that standard. In agreement or disagreement, I
respect the opinions and the freedoms of all the people of Indiana,” Pence
said in the statement Friday.
A handful of gay marriage supporters complained this week that their
comments were deleted and profiles blocked from the governor’s Facebook page
after Pence posted a statement Wednesday saying he would support a state
constitutional ban on gay marriage, which is likely to be a volatile issue
through the 2014 legislative session. However, it would not give voters a
chance to vote on whether or not to legalize gay marriage.
Pence did not immediately return a request Friday for an interview. Pence
spokeswoman Kara Brooks said he was traveling.
As a member of the U.S. House, Pence tried to broaden free-speech
protections, authoring a bill that would have established a media shield law
that allowed reporters to not reveal confidential news sources in federal
court proceedings except in certain circumstances.
Rick Sutton, president of Indiana Equality Coalition, a coalition that
opposes the marriage ban, said the governor’s Facebook page should be an
open forum, and noted that those who made opposing comments were blocked.
“Not only they didn’t want to see the posts, they didn’t want to hear from
the people who made the posts,” Sutton said Friday.
Lawmakers next session will look at writing the state’s gay marriage ban
into the constitution, giving voters a chance to decide if stronger blocks
on gay marriage should be put in place, and whether future Legislatures
should be barred from considering benefits for gay couples.