Army Captain Stephen Hill, the gay U.S. soldier booed during a September GOP debate, has spoken out for the first time since the event over how it felt for his question to be booed and why he believe’s Rick Santorum’s response to his question on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” showed a deep misunderstanding of the issues LGB servicemembers face.
Readers may remember that Hill submitted a YouTube question to the September 22 Orlando GOP debate, asking:
“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?”
This prompted a handful of the GOP debate audience to boo, which then precipitated an entire boo-related discourse that even saw President Obama condemn those voices over their lack of respect.
Regardless, the question went over to hopeful Rick Santorum who immediately launched into rhetoric surrounding his opposition to any kind of sexual activity in the military. Said 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 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 to what was happening in the past, which is — sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself — whether your’re heterosexual or homosexual.”
Speaking out publicly for the first time since that incident, Hill told the Associated Press in an interview published last week how it felt to be booed:
“When the actual booing occurred, my gut dropped out, because my first inclination was, did I just do something wrong?” he said. “The answer, obviously, wasn’t very supportive of gay people, and there was a lot of fear of how the Army would take the question.”
Hill also discussed Rick Santorum’s answer, saying that Santorum’s reply misunderstands the entire “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issue and the remaining restrictions the Defense of Marriage Act places on LGB soldiers and their families:
“This is not about sex,” Hill said. “A special privilege is not hiding pictures in my house or God forbid, taking mortar fire again and not knowing if Josh will be recognized. I’m fighting every day to protect everyone’s rights as human beings, and it seems counterintuitive for me to be fighting for those rights and not have them.”
Hill and his partner have joined other LGB servicemembers in a lawsuit that aims to secure for married same-sex couples the same partnership rights as heterosexual couples, something they are currently denied per the Defense of Marriage Act’s restrictions on federal recognition of same-sex unions.
You can read more about Hill, including what treatment he received from military superiors following his debate question and more on the lawsuit he is now a part of, in the Associated Press interview here.
Image taken from YouTube debate video under Fair Use terms, no infringement intended.