Governor Mike Pence apologizes for deleting gay marriage Facebook comments

Governor Mike Pence
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Indiana Governor Mike Pence is now apologizing for the way his office managed his official Facebook page.

Staff members deleted some comments because they disagreed with the governor's opinion on same-sex marriage. The comments pertained to the US Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

It's one of those situations a modern-day politician must learn to deal with. Most elected lawmakers want to have a webpage to show they are part of the social media generation.

The only problem is, what if many in that generation don't agree with you?

Ali Zuidervliet is sitting on the couch of the Indianapolis apartment she shares with her boyfriend.

"I've been unblocked. I think," she said.

Zuidervliet, 28, is angry that her post on Governor Mike Pence's Facebook page has been deleted.

"I want to know what happens to our hand-written letters? Does he get upset and throw those away? He has to listen to all the people, not just those who toe his line," she said.

Governor Pence apologized to Hoosiers who were offended while he was attending the Atterbury-Muscatatuck Feed 'em for Freedom event at Camp Atterbury on Friday.

"We are in the process of restoring many of those comments to our website. I thought it was important that we apologize and make sure Hoosiers know that we regret this occurrence took place," said the governor.

The apology offered on his website says he believed those comments that were deleted contained name calling, vulgarity or personally insulting comments. When he found out many of them merely disagreed with him, he says he felt he needed to apologize.

Ali didn't think her post fit any of those descriptions.

"This is what you ran on, jobs, and that is what he did. He said he was going to create jobs and I haven't seen those jobs frankly so that is what I said. Those jobs are not in our bedrooms so stay out, and I got deleted," she said.

The governor posted that he supports a measure to place Indiana's gay marriage ban in the state constitution. That caused a firestorm of reaction, with many opposing his viewpoint.

"I determined that in fact comments were removed that were simply in disagreement. That has not been our policy and I regret that that occurred in this case," he said.

Robin Winston is WTHR's Democratic political analyst. (WTHR also has a Republican political analyst, Peter Rusthoven, but he could not be reached for comment today.)

"The fact of the matter is you took the oath of office to be the governor of all of Indiana. Not just the part of Indiana that agrees with you," said Winston.

As of Friday afternoon, there were roughly 1,578 posts in response to the governor - still down from 2,000, indicating there was still work to be done. That means someone or some group of people may be working this weekend to restore many of those deleted posts and to unblock many of their authors.

Indiana: battleground state?

The governor supports an amendment to the Indiana state constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. If the measure passes the state legislature next year, it could be on the ballot for voters to decide in 2014. If the ballot question passes, Indiana would essentially ban gay marriage.

The high court ruling essentially leaves the question of whether or not to allow gay marriage up to states. If a same-sex couple are legally married in their state that allows it, the court ruling says that the federal government must recognize the marriage and allow the couple to receive the same benefits that heterosexual couples already receive. By August 2013, a total of 13 states will allow gay marriage.

 Here's the governor's full statement concerning the Facebook flap:

"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."