Segments in this Video

Discharged For Love (03:14)


The gay and lesbian population in the military is uncounted, but according to estimations, it is much larger than most people think. A sailor tells about his friends that were discharged from the military under the homosexual policy.

Gays in Militaries (03:00)

Evidence suggests that homosexuals have served in militaries since as early as 500 BC. Notable figures like Alexander the Great and Richard Lionheart were reportedly homosexual. Military leaders of World War II in America banned homosexual soldiers because they thought they were more likely to become psychological casualties.

After World War II (03:55)

The U.S. military discharged gay soldiers with "blue discharges" and dumped the soldiers at various ports, including San Francisco. The veteran population spurred the growth of gay friendly communities. Leonard Matlovich, an openly gay veteran, began a national discussion on gay soldiers' rights in America.

Honoring the Fallen (03:57)

Dr. Nathaniel Frank tells about the cases that followed the Matlovich case. President Clinton pledged to lift the ban on gays in the military, but forces resisting him and supporting the ban were unprecedented. He was depicted as anti-military before the American public.

1993 Senate Hearings (02:09)

Because General Colin Powell distinguished race as a "benign" personal characteristic as opposed to sexuality, "malignant" characteristic, racial segregation was separated from comparison and not open for analogy. Dr. Lawrence Korb testified in favor of lifting the ban on gays in the military and describes the hearing as "traumatic" as others used unscientific claims as arguments.

Unit Cohesion (03:42)

Because scientific evidence showing that gays are detrimental to the military does not exist, anti-gay supporters in the Senate hearings cited a different reason to keep gay people out of the military. Research studies by the RAND corporation shows that gays can be successfully integrated into the military.

Crittenden Report (03:14)

The first known study on sexual orientation in the military was done by the Navy in 1957. The report shows that there is no data suggesting that homosexuals are riskier than heterosexuals in the military.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell (02:40)

Following five months of hearings regarding gays in the military, Clinton agreed to compromise with the DADT, policy, mandating that sexual orientation would not be asked in the interview process, but effectively making it illegal to admit to being gay in the military. Clinton said that he felt it was an "honorable compromise."

Continuum of Near Misses (03:04)

Anonymous service members describe the difficulties of keeping their sexuality secret in the military, and report receiving criticism for being anti-social. Though Don't Ask, Don't Tell was supposed to eliminate conversations about sexuality, it turned into people being monitored to determine their sexuality.

Harassment and SLDN (01:52)

A group called SLDN was founded to assist service members who had been negatively affected by Don't Ask, Don't Tell. People were turned in by their families, their psychiatrists, their best friends, and by their own private writings.

Anti-Gay Harassment (04:11)

A comic book was issued by the Pentagon to help people better understand the language of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In 1999, Private Barry Winchell was beaten to death while asleep after facing anti-gay harassment daily for four months. He could not ask for help from his superiors because he could have been released from the military.

Missed Translations (02:21)

Allied military forces across the world began allowing openly gay people to serve. After the September 11 attacks, it was revealed that 54 gay linguists were discharged from the American military.

Moral Waivers (03:34)

After 2001, gay discharges began declining in the military. Men were sent into combat even if they claimed to be gay and people were allowed into the military with felonies and drug convictions.

Soldier Spirit (04:10)

Former U.S. Army Major Mike Almy was expelled from the military after his private emails were searched and he was found to be gay. In 2006, Captain Patrick Murphy became the first veteran elected to Congress. He made it his personal mission to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Dropping Bombs (03:15)

Decorated Air Force member Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was told he would likely be kicked out of the military because of his sexuality. He contacted SLDN and appeared on the Rachel Maddow show.

2008 Election (02:06)

Fehrenbach and Almy deeply affected the national debate on gays in the military. In the 2008 election, Senator Obama did not support the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, while Senator McCain did.

Furthering the Movement (02:13)

Murphy discusses President Obama's work to change Don't Ask, Don't Tell, soon after his inauguration. Executive director of SLDN, Aubrey Sarvis, notes differences between the attempt to allow gay rights in the military in 1993 and in 2009.

Senate Hearings (03:26)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tells how she was inspired to action by former U.S. Army lieutenant Dan Choi. Seventeen years after the initial hearings that led to the DADT policy, Senate hearings are held again.

Calling For Repeal (02:08)

Military leaders decide that repeal is imminent and will begin discussing how best to implement in. McCain is disappointed and waves around a document signed by elderly retired military officers who agree with his belief that gays should not have rights in the military.

Surveying Service Members (02:26)

Jeh Johnson of the Department of Defense describes procedures to investigate the service members' own feelings about integration of gay rights into the military. Questions about privacy were included.

Outserve (02:48)

The nature of DADT makes it difficult to get the opinions of gay service members without exposing their sexuality. A group was created to allow homosexual military members to share their stories without fear of expulsion.

House of Representatives Vote (03:11)

Though the momentum for the repeal of DADT seemed to be certain, in 2010 it came to a halt and Senate votes blocked repeal. Patrick Murphy and other Democrats lost their seats in Congress.

Running Out of Time (04:00)

In the December Senate hearings, McCain faulted the survey that proved over two thirds of the military population was in favor of repealing DADT for not simply asking whether or not they wanted it repealed. Leaders in favor of the repeal note that voting is not part of the procedures for the American military.

Repeal DADT (02:25)

Sarvis came up with an idea to have a standalone bill voted on in Congress. Murphy shares a story about a gay soldier in Iraq who was considering suicide but was holding on to life knowing that Murphy was fighting for him in Congress.

American Values (04:45)

On December 18, 2010, the Senate voted 65 to 31 in favor of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. It was officially implemented on September 20th, 2011.

Credits: The Strange History of Don't Ask Don't Tell (01:27)

Credits: The Strange History of Don't Ask Don't Tell

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The Strange History of Don't Ask Don't Tell

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $199.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $299.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



Suspenseful, deeply engaging and heart-wrenching, The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell illustrates the tumultuous evolution of a controversial policy which fostered hate and intolerance within the military – and undermined the very freedoms American soldiers fight for – by forcing gay and lesbian soldiers to lie and live in secrecy. In 1993, President Bill Clinton, trying to deliver on his election promise of lifting the ban on gays in the military, encountered vehement opposition that resulted in the compromise legislation, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This 80-minute documentary examines the torturous consequences of the policy and the fight to repeal it – a battle that would last 17 years, span three presidencies, and result in the discharge of 13,368 active service members. Shot during the final 15 months of the law prior to its repeal, the film includes archival news footage and interviews with over 70 key players, from policy experts to Pentagon personnel, as well as personal accounts by a number of actively serving gay soldiers (who are obscured from the camera’s view, as speaking about their sexual orientation would be in violation of Don't Ask, Don’t Tell). An HBO Production. 

Length: 80 minutes

Item#: BVL115036

Copyright date: ©2011

Closed Captioned

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