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Republican Gay rights group demands apology from Santorum

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, answers a question during a debate, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla.
Pool,AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, answers a question during a debate, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla.
Pool,AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Members of the conservative gay rights group GOProud are demanding an apology from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum for what they call his disrespectful comments directed at a gay soldier in Thursday night's GOP presidential debate.

"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," said GOProud's Christopher Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia in a Thursday night press release.

During the Fox News/Google-sponsored debate, which took place in Orlando, Florida, a gay soldier deployed in Iraq asked the candidates if they would take measures to "circumvent" the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," if elected president.

Some audience members audibly booed the soldier -- a moment the GOP candidates on stage chose to ignore.

GOProud also noted that Santorum, who answered the question, declined to thank the soldier for his service, and called the repeal of DADT "social experimentation" - and "tragic."

"I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military," Santorum responded. "And 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 to -- and 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."

He added: "What we're doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. And that's tragic."

GOProud blasted Santorum for being "blinded by his anti-gay bigotry," and pointed out that the former two-term Pennsylvania senator had never served in the military.

"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," they wrote. "Stephen Hill is serving our country in Iraq, fighting a war Senator Santorum says 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?"