Revisiting the Gay Soldier Who Changed a Presidential Race

This week I'm looking back at my 2012 interview with Josh Snyder and Steve Hill. Steve was the soldier who asked a question about Dont Ask Don't Tell at a Republican debate, and was booed by a few people in the audience. None of the Republicans on stage reacted to the booing, and Rick Santorum responded to the question by dismissing Steve's military service. And so, before he knew it, Steve had become a minor celebrity in the presidential race. Everyone was talking about Steve Hill the soldier. But what most folks didn't know about was Steve the husband. He had recently married his partner, Josh, in an intimate ceremony at a meaningful gravesite. Here's my conversation with them from January of 2012, just a few weeks after the debate that changed their lives.

There are so many elements of their story that I can't imagine going through -- having to marry in private to protect your career; talking to your secret spouse from a war zone without any of the protections -- or even acknowledgement -- of marriage; and then of course becoming an international celebrity simply by speaking your truth.

I'm in awe of Steve and Josh's ability to endure these incredible experiences as calmly and gracefully as they have. And I have deep admiration for Steve's decision to pose that question. As he said, it was a big risk to step forward, and to give up his anonymity. But his motivation -- that "it was more important that the question get out there" -- speaks to a level of bravery to which I think we all aspire.

When I describe their wedding ceremony, I'm sometimes met with shock that anyone would want to marry over a grave -- and the grave of a stranger, no less. But I don't think Steve and Josh saw Leonard Matlovich as a stranger. In case you're unfamiliar with Leonard, he was a decorated Tech Sergeant who came out in 1975 Time Magazine cover story about gay service members. It was a turning point in the LGBT liberation movement, and for the rest of his life Leonard fought for equality.

So even though they never met, Steve and Josh had a close personal connection to Leonard. And when they married, they weren't just standing over his grave. They were standing alongside him, and along with all of the other queer service members buried in that section of Congressional Cemetery. They married surrounded by friends, and their marriage was a promise to continue the brave work that those men and women began.

In 2014, Steve wrote a book about his experiences called Soldier of Change. It has his inside take on the media frenzy around the debate, as well as his 20-year journey in the army and meeting Josh, plus a foreword by George Takei. Soldier of Change is available now on Amazon. 

And what do you know, so is Defining Marriage, the book on which this podcast is based! It's now out in audiobook, paperback, and ebook; so however you like your books, it's waiting for you.


In Your Arms Kevin MacLeod ( 
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