September 22, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Santorum to gay soldier: ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal is ‘tragic’

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum reiterated his support for reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Thursday in response to a question asked by a gay soldier serving in Iraq during a presidential debate.

Santorum — one of nine GOP presidential hopefuls who attended the Fox News/Google debate in Orlando, Fla. — said he’d reinstitute the military’s gay ban but suggested he would allow troops who have already come out to continue serving.

The question came via video from an Army soldier serving in Iraq identified as Stephen Hill. The service member said he was gay during the video and asked if debate participants would rollback LGBT advances in the military that have been achieved under President Obama.

“In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I’m a gay soldier and I didn’t want to lose my job,” the soldier said. “My question is: under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress we’ve made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”

In response to the question, which was audibly booed by audience members during the debate, Santorum said, “Any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.”

Santorum maintained repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — the 18-year-old ban on open service that officially came to an end Tuesday — amounts to affording special protections to gay troops.

“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 in removing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I think tries to inject social policy into the military,” Santorum said. “And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.”

Santorum continued, “We need to give the military, which is all volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient in protecting our men and women in uniform, and I believe this undermines that ability.”

The audience shouted in approval and applauded as the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania made his remarks.

Pressed by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly on what he would do with troops like Hill who are in service but already out, Santorum replied, “What we’re doing is social experimentation. That’s tragic.”

Santorum then restated his pledge to reinstitute “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as he maintained service members who are already out should be excluded from expulsion.

“I would just say that going forward, we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president: period,” Santorum said. “That policy would be reinstituted, and as far as people who are in it, I would not throw them out because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration.”

But then, in a seeming contradiction, Santorum said he’d “move forward with conforming with what was happening in the past,” under which he said “sex is not an issue. ”

“It should not be an issue. Leave it alone,” Santorum said. “Keep it to yourself — whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual.”

Gay GOP groups railed against Santorum in response to the answer he gave to the gay service member during the debate.

In a joint statement, Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, and Chris Barron, chair of the organization, said Santorum “disrespected” troops and owes the soldier who asked the question “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,” LaSalvia and Barron said. “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.”

LaSalvia and Barron noted that Hill is serving in the Iraq war, an operation that Santorum said 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?” LaSalvia and Barron said.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Santorum gave a “shameful response” to the service member and “was incoherent and out of touch.”

“America’s uniformed leaders support gays and lesbians serving alongside their colleagues with dignity and respect,” said Cooper, who’s also an Iraq combat veteran and current Army Reserve officer.

“Santorum’s divisive and homophobic remarks do not befit a commander-in-chief,” Cooper continued. “Americans want to hear about how our next president is going to cut our national debt, advocate for a confident foreign policy and most importantly help let the private sector thrive to create jobs.”

It’s not the first time Santorum has said he’d reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He affirmed he would institute the military’s gay ban when Think Progress asked him about the issue in April.

Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has also said she’d reinstitute “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected to the White House.

Watch the video here (via Think Progress):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKtzOjAWGIE&feature=player_embedded

UPDATE: In a subsequent appearance Friday on Fox News, Santorum said he condemns those in the audience who booed Hill, although the candidate added he heard no jeers during the debate.

“I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier,” Santorum said. “That soldier is serving our country. I thank him for his service to our country. I’m sure he’s doing an excellent job. I hope he is safe. I hope he returns safely and does his mission well.”

Santorum continued, “I have to admit I seriously did not hear those boos. Had I heard them, I certainly would have commented on them, but, as you know, when you’re inside that sort of environment, you’re sort of focused on the question and formulating your answer, and I just didn’t hear those couples of boos that were out there. But certainly had I, I would have said, ‘Don’t do that. This man is a serving our country and we are to thank him for his service.’”

Watch the video here (via Think Progress):

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

14 Comments
  • DADT needs to be reinstated, this time for the heterosexuals within America’s armed forces. If they cannot keep their sexual orientation to themselves, then they would be dishonorably discharged. Heterosexuals are wife beaters, child molesters, and generally very violent. They could be serving on the front lines where they can get shot as long as they keep their mouths shut about their breeding habits.

  • Nice try, Rick, but in the New York Times back in 1999, I showed who was really getting a special privilege:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/28/opinion/l-don-t-ask-violates-free-speech-rights-250732.html

  • OK, so… the GOP audiences have cheered lustily for 234 executions, have shouted “CRUCIFY HIM!” (sorry, I mean) “LET HIM DIE” at a hypothetical 30-year old uninsured guy, and now they’ve booed a gay man serving in Iraq.  Is there anything ELSE we need to know about today’s Grand Old Party?

    [URL removed]

  • Santorum is a distraction. The real story was the deafening silence from the other podiums. That’s what enables disrespecting someone’s service or barbaric cheers for death. All John Huntsman’s campaign could muster for it’s tardy response was “it was unfortunate.” Way to repudiate Governor. Surprised you didn’t add “no-homo!”

  • OF COURSE it was repulsive, and OF COURSE I hope it torpedoes the chances of ANY of them getting elected. BUT understandable anger or even another insincere apology from Santorum and the GOP statement that it was “unfortunate” doesn’t solve the REAL problem that the soldier got ridiculed for asking: SOMEONE being willing SOMEDAY to use the present legal void to reinstate a ban on gays in the military. THAT’s what we need a fix for—not imagining that righteous indignation will turn a sow’s ear like Santorum into a silk purse.

    Their the disease—HERE’s the cure: OBAMA could easily and immediately prevent renewal of a ban FOREVER by doing exactly what he has re DOMA cases: stop fighting and instead ENDORSE to the court the LCR ruling. In fact, the reason the 9th reinstated the temporary ban on investigations and discharges in July was because they were aware of his having reversed himself on DOMA cases.

    “The job of the gay community is not to deal with the extremist who would castrate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.” – Bayard Rustin.

  • Santorum opposes gays in the military, considering this clown never served one hour in the arm services of this country, so shut-up Ricky!

    • Now that there is a Blade moderator of comments, would s/he please correct grammar and spelling before posting? Grammar/Spelling mistakes take me completely off track and ruin the romance of the writer’s/Blade’s words.

  • Oh, the backtracking of politicians. He and the other cronies up on that platform exercised cowardice and now claim selective deafness. Good grief. Find them a rock to climb under. Thank you all enlisted military. You do not deserve these idiots. I think this is the party that likes to send you to war, selectively only honor those they choose, want to short change you on post tramatic injuries related to war, cut your benefits, and so on. Oh yeah, they like to wave the flag, watch fireworks and eat ice cream on the 4th of July, just for you. Just don’t ask them to help you with injuries from warfare, mental health due to post traumatic stress syndrome, education, employment, or any of thos other nasty topics that government shouldn’t be involved in or fund.

  • His argument isn’t even logical. If having gays serve openly is actually bad for the military, he should SUPPORT kicking out people (like me) who have come out since the repeal.

    If he’s going to “waive” that for select people, then he’s effectively saying that gays in the military aren’t really *that* big of a deal.

    Logic fail.

  • In this side-by-side comparison, 13 presidential candidates show their plans for DADT, equal pay for military personnel, DOMA, and related issues: [URL removed]

  • So many straight people just don’t get it. The issue has nothing to with sex ad everything to do with the ability to be honest. Santorum says that homosexuals and heterosexuals alike should “keep it to themselves” but anyone who has ever worked with other people knows that is comes up in the simplest of ways. Coworkers tend to make small talk with one another and ask and talk about husbands, wives girlfriends, and families. If a straight man is asked by a coworker “what did you do this weekend”, and responded “i saw a movie with my girlfriend” that would be no big deal. Can you imagine getting fired for such an answer? Well, under DADT, if that man gave the same harmless answer, but instead said “I saw a movie with my boy friend” he would be fired. So you are placed in a situation where you have to lie to your coworkers or lose your job, in a job where the ability to trust one another is a matter of life and death. But, heterosexuals can be open and honest with out any fear at all. That is special treatment. Allowing homosexuals the same freedom to be honest is not special treatment, it is simply giving them the same rights and privileges that their heterosexual counterparts have always had.

    • So many gay people just don’t get it. To many straights, acting “natural” for them is perfectly normal, while allowing gays to “act gay” is seen as an entirely unnecessary special privilege. They will tell you that gays have the exact same rights as straights: for example, a gay man has just as much right to marry a woman as any straight man does. (Yes, this is a real argument that is often used.) A gay service-member has exactly the same right as a straight service-member to engage in casual small-talk about sex and/or potential partners, in that they are both free to speak openly about heteronormative relations. See? The gays want SPECIAL rights that no one else can have! How can you tolerate that kind of unfairness?

  • Screw Rick Santorum and the rest of those numb nuts self righteous GOP candidates. I don’t think mainstream America sees those attitudes as anything more than prejudice. Most of America knows someone that’s gay, lesbian, bi or trans. That translates into sympathy or empathy for them. So when they hear the GOP barfing up their anti-everything attitude it sounds really ugly and most voters just don’t want to vote for that.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin