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GOProud, a gay-rights group, condemns Santorum's debate comments

September 23, 2011|By Michael Muskal
  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Thursday night at a debate in Orlando that repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy "is playing social experimentation with our military."
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Thursday night… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )

A conservative gay rights group on Friday condemned Rick Santorum for his comments during a GOP presidential debate, which they said showed disrespect to U.S. servicemen.

In a statement, GOProud, which represents conservative gays, lesbians and transgender individuals, condemned Santorum’s comments and called on him to apologize to the Stephen Hill, the gay soldier who asked the candidates whether they would seek to circumvent the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Gays are now allowed to serve openly in the military because of the repeal.

Hill’s question came during Thursday night’s debate sponsored by Fox News and Google. Some in the audience booed the soldier, a striking moment that the candidates ignored.

[Updated 11:20 a.m: Speaking on Fox News on Friday, Santorum said he was unable to hear the boos from the podium.

"I did not hear those boos," Santorum said. "If I had, I would have said, 'don't do that, this man is serving our country.'"]

Hill's original question was addressed to Santorum, who has clashed with the gay community over rights issues before.  A gay activist responded to Santorum's rhetoric by linking “Santorum” to a sex term and making that usage the top Google search result for his name -- a problem for anyone, but especially a politician.

 “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military,” Santorum said Thursday night. “And the fact that they're making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to -- and removing 'don't ask, don't tell,' I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.”

“What we're doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now,” he said later. “And that's tragic.”

GOProud on Friday attacked Santorum and noted that the former Pennsylvania senator had never served in the military.

“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,” the group said in a statement attributed to Christopher R. Barron, the group’s chairman of the board, and Jimmy LaSalvia, its executive director. “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. Stephen Hill is serving our country in Iraq, fighting a war Senator Santorum says he supports. How can Senator Santorum claim to support this war if he doesn't support the brave men and women who are fighting it?”

Santorum’s campaign has not ignited major support. In most national polls, he rates in the low single digits.

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