Audience jeers gay soldier, applauds anti-gay Santorum during GOP debate

Stephen Hill Staff Reports

Audience members at Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate booed a gay soldier who asked if the Republican candidates would reinstate the now repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned openly gay service members.

Stephen Hill

In a video submission, Stephen Hill told the candidates that he “had to lie about who he was” when he was deployed to Iraq in 2010 because of his sexual orientation.

“My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?” Hill asked, which was met by jeers from many in the Orlando audience.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) responded that “any type of sexual activity has no place in the military” and said the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” injected “social experimentation” into the military.

“I would just say that going forward we would re-institute that policy if Rick Santorum was president,” he said.

Santorum said the military has one responsibility: protecting the country, and that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is a distraction to that role. His response garnered loud applause.

Watch:

Reaction to Santorum’s response has been swift.

In a joint statement, GOProud Board Chairman Christopher R. Barron and Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia said Santorum owed Hill an “immediate apology.”

“Tonight, Rick Santorum disrespected our brave men and women in uniform, and he owes Stephen Hill, the gay soldier who asked him the question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, an immediate apology.

“That brave gay soldier is doing something Rick Santorum has never done – put his life on the line to defend our freedoms and our way of life. It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his anti-gay bigotry that he couldn’t even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service.”

The Log Cabin Republicans issued this statement:

“Senator Santorum’s shameful response to the combat soldier’s question regarding open service was incoherent and out of touch. America’s uniformed leaders support gays and lesbians serving alongside their colleagues with dignity and respect. Santorum’s divisive and homophobic remarks do not befit a commander-in-chief,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director.

“For many Americans the take-away from last night’s debate was not that Republicans have the solutions our country needs, but that too many in our party are clinging so strongly to a failed and discriminatory law that they are willing to disrespect a man in uniform. As a current Army Reserve officer and an Iraq combat veteran, I found it appalling that a soldier serving down range would be disrespected in such a fashion.”

None of the other eight candidates participating in the debate were asked to respond to Hill’s question, and all remained silent during the audience jeers.

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