At last night's Fox/Google debate for the Republican presidential candidates, a question about the recently repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was given to Rick Santorum. It came via video from a gay Army soldier named Steven Hill (Fox News):
Steven Hill: 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. 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.
Several loud outbursts erupted from audience members (as has happened in similar debates this year). They appeared to be boos for Hill or his question. Santorum replied:
Rick Santorum: I think that any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they're making a point to include it as a provision within the military that they are going to recognize a group of people, and give them a special privilege to -- in 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. We need to give our military, which is all volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient and protective of our men and women in uniform, and I believe this undermines that ability....
Host Megyn Kelly: So, what would you do with soldiers like Steven Hill? Now that he's out -- you saw his face on camera. When he first submitted this video to us, he didn't have his face on camera. Now that he's out, so what would you do as president?
Santorum: Look, what we're doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now and that's tragic. I would just say that going forward, we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president, period. That policy would be reinstituted, and as far as people who are in, I would not throw them out, because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in conformity with what was happening in the past which was: Sex is not an issue -- it should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself, whether you're heterosexual or homosexual.
LGBT issues have not been a major topic at the debates so far despite the candidates' combined histories of speaking against same-sex marriage rights, gay visibility in the military, protection in schools, and other areas social policy. Santorum may not have been the best candidate to ask because he is considered a lagger in the contest with no chance of winning.
After the debate he claimed not to hear the boos, and reemphasized his opposition to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell by saying (Yahoo, The Ticket):
''I'd grandfather in people who, because of the policy, you know, came out.... It's not their fault that we executed a policy that I think was detrimental to everyone, including them, in my opinion.... It just shows how much our culture has changed that this is even a subject to be debated within the military.''