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At GOP debate, crowd boos gay soldier's question on 'don't ask, don't tell'

September 22, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum in the GOP debate in Orlando, Fla.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum in the GOP debate in Orlando, Fla. (Phelan Ebenhack / Reuters )

A gay soldier's question about the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy elicited boos from the audience at Thursday night's Republican candidate debate, and a promise from Rick Santorum to reinstate the policy if elected.

In a video submission, Stephen Hill told the Republican presidential candidates that he "had to lie about who he was" when he was deployed to Iraq in 2010 because of his sexual orientation, and his fear that he would "lose my job."

"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.

Loud jeers were heard immediately from the Orlando, Fla., crowd, marking the third straight debate when the audience's reaction overshadowed the candidate's.

That reaction was not immediately acknowledged by the Fox News Channel moderators, as NBC's Brian Williams did in the Reagan Presidential Library debate when the crowd applauded the number of executions in Texas under Rick Perry.

In last week's CNN "tea party" debate, some in the audience supported the notion that a sick person should be allowed to die if he or she had no healthcare.

Answering Hill, Santorum said that "sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military," and said the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which took effect this week, was injecting "social policy into the military."

"What we're doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now, and that's tragic," Santorum said.

Asked how he would answer soldiers like Hill, Santorum said he would not "throw them out."

"But we would move forward in conformity with what was happening in the past, which is, that sex is not an issue," he said. "Leave it alone, keep it to yourself, whether you are a heterosexual or a homosexual."

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