Indiana Gov. Mike Pence posted a statement to Facebook on Wednesday renewing his support for a state constitutional law that would ban gay marriage. Thursday Pence’s staff deleted hundreds of comments from the Facebook page alleging what people wrote was disrespectful. Many of the commenters believe, however, it was simply because they did not agree with the governor.
The Indianapolis Star reported one of the deleted comments written by Jessica Strope simply said: “This Hoosier stands for equality. Too bad so many of the ‘Right’ stand on the complete WRONG side of history.”
On Thursday, Pence argued the deleted comments were uncivil. A spokeswomen for the governor noted that many critical posts were still visible on the page.
“I’m somebody who really believes that civility and mutual respect are important,” Pence said. “I do know our staff has a long-standing policy that many news organizations have had regarding name-calling and vulgar comments, and I’m confident our staff was just administrating that in the way that we do in any other debate.”
Many are left wondering how the First Amendment applies to commenting via social media. Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, a law professor at the University of Florida, told the Indianapolis Star that Pence’s Facebook page, which is viewable by anyone on the web, should be considered a public forum and thus he could face legal issues for deleting dissenting opinions.
“If a government actor sets up as part of a government action a place for citizens to come and speak and interact, then the rule is that you can’t cherry-pick the viewpoints you like and eliminate the viewpoints you don’t like,” Lidsky said.