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 marriage.
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.
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