Posted at 08:52 AM ET, 09/23/2011

Presidential debate audience members boo gay soldier; Rick Santorum would reinstate DADT (Video)

While the Republican presidential hopefuls have been competing to take center stage during the debates, another star has emerged: the audience. Or at least, its reactions, from cheers for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s stance on the death penalty, to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.) being cheered and booed for comments on health insurance and 9/11 respectively.
Former senator Rick Santorum with former House speaker Newt Gingrich. | GALLERY: GOP debate in Orlando. (Phelan M. Ebenhack - AP)

There was a similar occurrence at the Fox News/Google debate Thursday, where some questions were asked via YouTube.

One came from Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq. He asked the candidates if they planned to “circumvent” the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that required gay and lesbian service members to keep their sexuality secret.

After the question played, a few audience members booed. There was a splattering of hand clapping.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum answered:

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 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: to defend our country.

Santorum continued to speak as the audience cheered loudly.

When Fox News’s Megyn Kelly asked what he would do with Hill, who had just outed himself on television, he replied, “What we are doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. That’s tragic.”

Santorum said he would reinstitute DADT, but would not penalize soldiers who had come out during the Obama administration.

“But we would move forward in conformity with what was happening in the past. Which was — sex is not an issue,” he continued. “It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.”

Evan McMorris-Santoro, a Talking Points Memo reporter who was at the debate, reported thatformer ambassador to China Jon Huntsman called the booing “unfortunate.”

“You know, we’re all Americans, and the fact that he is an American who put on the uniform says something good about him,” he said.

Watch the segment below.

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By  |  08:52 AM ET, 09/23/2011

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