GOP Debate Viewers Jeer Gay Soldier

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com September 22 2011 11:20 PM ET

During one of the few Republican debates to address gay rights, a soldier posted a YouTube question for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum about "don't ask, don't tell," which resulted in the soldier being booed by the Orlando, Fla., crowd.

Stephen Hill, who was deployed to Iraq in 2010, said he was initially forced "to lie about who he was" out of fear that he could be discharged due to the military's now-eradicated ban on openly gay service members.

He asked the panel of nine GOP presidential hopefuls, "Under one of your presidencies, do you intent do circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?"

Immediately after the question was asked, the crowd reacted with booing toward the soldier. Moderator Megyn Kelly posed the question directly to Santorum, who said he would repeal the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" if elected and that sex has no place in the ranks.

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

The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" officially took place Tuesday after 17 years of restricting gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from serving openly. The policy also prevented military personnel from admitting the existence of any same-sex relationships, as that information could have been used as evidence to discharge gay troops. Even now after repeal, out soldiers with partners, spouses, or children face a host of legal and policy-based red tape for benefits that heterosexual troops can use, like shared medical benefits, housing, and travel clearances.