The operator of a Facebook page that promotes the political views of Republican Gov. Paul LePage has settled a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Maine by agreeing to stop blocking users who post critical comments.

But as part of the agreement, approved Friday by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr., LePage may continue to assert that the page is not a state government operation but a place for those who support his political views.

In August of 2017 the ACLU of Maine filed the civil rights suit on behalf of Karin Leuthy and Kelli Whitlock Burton, after the women were blocked from posting on the Facebook page and comments they made there were deleted. According to the complaint those actions violated the women’s 1st Amendment rights of free speech and also their right to petition their government under the 14th Amendment.

A notice of the settlement on the page, “Paul LePage, Maine’s Governor” places some of the blame on Facebook for labels it placed on the page and other actions that may led viewers of the page to be “confused about its status and may have believed this page was run by staff in State Government.” LePage attempted to have the suit dismissed, but Woodcock denied that motion in August.

The notice of the settlement goes on to state the page was created in 2009 to support LePage’s campaign for the governor’s office. He was first elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014. “The page has been labeled as a page to support Governor LePage since its creation,” the notice states.

The comments deleted from the page came after a post about the Fourth of July that appeared to be a message from LePage.

“Today we remember our Nation’s roots and what it means to live in a free country,” the post read. “It is our job to instill these values in generations to come to protect the American Dream. Wishing you all a safe and happy 4th of July.”

Whitlock Burton, one of the plaintiffs, commented that several people were being blocked from commenting on the page and that others had comments deleted.

“I have seen screen shots of the comments,” she wrote,” and they are not inappropriate, profane or disrespectful. They only disagree with your stance on certain issues and events.”

As part of the settlement, which was made in part to “show good will toward our fellow citizens,” according to the notice, those who believe they were unfairly blocked can contact the ACLU of Maine by emailing them at: [email protected] by Dec. 13 to request reinstatement under the terms of the settlement.

It is unclear whether the page will continue after LePage leaves office in January. A message to Brent Littlefield, who operates the page as the governor’s political adviser, was not immediately returned on Monday.

“Kelli and I are now officially unblocked and I am very much enjoying the restoration of my rights to petition my government!” Leuthy, one of the plaintiffs, wrote in a post on Facebook on Saturday urging others to contact the ACLU if they were also blocked from commenting on the page.

In a Dec. 6 post on the page crediting LePage with a state budget surplus, Whitlock Burton commented: “Your surplus came at the expense of food, housing, health care and other vital services for the poor, the sick, children and the elderly. One in four Maine children are hungry, we are the only state in the country with a rising infant mortality rate, child poverty is growing at a rate 8 times higher than the national average, and the opioid epidemic has grown unchecked …”

This story will be updated.

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