Last night, Stephen Hill, who is serving in the Army in Iraq, had the courage to come out as gay to a national audience and ask the Republican presidential candidates about how they’d handle troops like him. The audience responded to his question with boos, and Rick Santorum said he’s reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (a promise he doubled down on later in the evening).
The big question today, even among conservatives, is: Why did none of the candidates stand up for the soldier? Here are some of today’s reactions to the offensive moment:
– Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: “Booing a soldier serving our nation is uncalled for. If I were on stage, I would make that point.”
– The Hill’s Ballot Box: “None of the Republican candidates responded to the audience’s reaction.”
– CBS News: “Some audience members audibly booed the soldier — a moment the GOP candidates on stage chose to ignore.”
– The New Yorker: “His reply was breathtakingly bad: he talked about dangerous social experiments and what a mistake the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had been; he didn’t even thank Hill, in a rote way, for his service. But none of the candidates did, and any one of them could have.”
– Christian Post: “Santorum, who has never served in the armed forces, did not address the boos, but explained his position by saying ‘sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.'”
– National Review: “Whatever you think of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or homosexuality, Hill is risking his life on behalf of his country. It is troubling, and revealing, that Santorum’s answer entirely defined Hill as a gay man first and as a soldier second, if at all.”
– GOProud: “Tonight, Rick Santorum disrespected our brave men and women in uniform, and he owes Stephen Hill, the gay soldier who asked him the question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, 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. 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.”
– Log Cabin Republicans: “Unfortunately, for many Americans the take-away from last night’s debate was not that Republicans have the solutions our country needs, but that too many in our party are clinging so strongly to a failed and discriminatory law that they are willing to disrespect a man in uniform. As a current Army Reserve officer and an Iraq combat veteran, I found it appalling that a soldier serving down range would be disrespected in such a fashion.”
A petition is already underway on Change.org calling on Rick Santorum to apologize to gay soldiers. If Republicans are going to tolerate the shunning of gay troops, they will cause the very problems of unit cohesion they claimed would be the result of DADT repeal.