A gay soldier who submitted a question to a Republican presidential debate was booed by the audience.
Stephen Hill, who is currently stationed in Iraq, used a video link to ask candidates at the Fox News/Google debate in Orlando whether they would reinstate the ban on openly gay soldiers.
Hill, who said he previously had to lie about himself to keep his job, asked the candidates: “Under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”
As the video finished, he was booed and heckled by audience members. The candidates did not condemn the crowd’s behaviour.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum answered the soldier’s question and declared that he would bring back the ban.
He said: “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.
“The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognise 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 was asked by the presenter what he would do about gays and lesbians already serving openly in the military.
Mr Santorum, who has claimed there is a “gay jihad” against him, said: “What we are doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now.
“And that’s tragic. I would just say that going forward we would re-institute that policy if Rick Santorum was president. Period.
“That policy would be re-instituted 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 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 are heterosexual or homosexual.”
Mr Santorum is not the only Republican presidential candidate who has said he will bring back Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Michele Bachmann has said she would keep the policy, while Mitt Romney said he would keep it until current conflicts are over.