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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 47
Gay soldier booed at GOP debate speaks out
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Gay soldier booed at GOP debate speaks out

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

It was a moment of complete shame. Just two days after the discriminatory policy banning openly Gay service known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed, Army Captain Stephen Hill - a Gay man - asked Republican candidates at a September 22 GOP debate if they would reinstate the ban if elected. He received boos from the audience. Hill was asking the question while stationed in Iraq. Not one of the Republicans jumped to his defense, and the audience cheered when candidate Rick Santorum said, 'What we are doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. That's tragic. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.'

'When the actual booing occurred, my gut dropped out, because my first inclination was [to wonder] 'Did I do something wrong?' said Hill. 'But this is not about sex. 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 was referring to his husband of four and a half months, Joshua Snyder, who was back home in Columbus, Ohio.

The LGBT, military, and - quite frankly - most of America was none too impressed with the actions of the candidates and the audience that participated in the disgraceful act.

President Barack Obama chided the Republican candidates for staying silent when several people booed the American soldier.

Hill says the fact that he just outed himself on national television had barely registered when he absorbed the boos and Santorum's answer followed by applause. He said the following morning, at breakfast, the segment was played on the chow hall television. His commanding officer told him she had no problem with what he did.

'She said, 'What the military's most concerned with is that you are OK, because it's a lot of pressure on you and we want to make sure if there is anything we can do to help,' recalled Hill.

Hill told the Associated Press what he remembers most was that a presidential candidate defined his marriage and military service in terms of sex. He holds that up against the times he hid Snyder's photograph because Army buddies were coming over to play video games, introduced his husband as his roommate or brother, and the legal vows they exchanged at the grave of Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who was discharged in 1975 after becoming the first Gay service member to challenge the U.S. military's ban on Gay and Lesbian troops serving openly.

According to the AP, Snyder and Hill last month joined other same-sex military couples in suing the government for the same benefits as straight military couples, which the Pentagon denies them on grounds that federal law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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