Pence apologizes for deleted Facebook comments on same-sex marriage debate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement on his Facebook page Friday, apologizing for comments deleted surrounding a debate on same-sex marriage. 

Thursday, Gov. Pence spoke to reporters regarding his stance on the Defense of Marriage Act, stating he would support an effort to put a same-sex marriage ban into the state’s constitution next year.

Following his remarks, a debate emerged on the governor’s Facebook page and several comments opposing Pence’s stance were deleted.

Gov. Pence addressed the issue Friday, releasing the following statement:

“I believe that civility and respect for the opinion of others is essential to the democratic process. I also believe in the Freedom of Speech.

Over the past 24 hours, I became aware of concerns that comments responding to my statement of support for traditional marriage were being deleted from this Facebook page because they disagreed with my stated position.

Our longstanding policy, on this and other social media sites, has been to delete inflammatory comments that include name-calling, vulgarity or comments personally insulting to others. It was my understanding that the comments which were deleted all met this standard.

On careful review, it appear that this was not always the case and some comments were being deleted simply because they expressed disagreement with my position. I regret that this occurred and sincerely apologize to all those who were affected.

I have instructed our staff to review our policy and develop a standard of conduct similar to that of other elected officials and news organizations in the days ahead. We will post that policy prominently on this site.

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.”

Facebook users who claim their comments were deleted said they appreciated Pence’s apology.

“I appreciate that and I understand they don’t want vulgarity or offensive language,” said Michelle Watson. “(But) I used none of those things.”

“I’m very frustrated,” said Ali Zuiderbliet. “It’s not his campaign page, it’s his official Governor’s page. He shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”

“Especially if it’s on the taxpayer dime, you wonder who’s sitting there controlling his Facebook page, censoring the comments they choose to,” said David Smith.

Gov. Pence commented further after an event Friday afternoon at Camp Atterbury.

“I looked at it carefully and saw comments were removed simply in disagreement,” said Pence. “That’s not our policy and I regret that occurred in this case. We’ve been in the process of restoring many of those comments to our web site.”

In fact, Smith and others who said they were previously blocked from commenting were once again able to comment on the governor’s page as of Friday afternoon.

“I regret this occurred,” said Pence. “I want Hoosiers to know whether I agree or disagree, we believe in an open debate about all the important issues facing our state.”