Secretary of Defense Les Aspin described the new "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The previous day, President Clinton announced the introduction of the new policy, which would allow LGBT service members to remain in the U.S. military if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.
Since the Revolutionary War, homosexual acts have been grounds for discharge from the American military. During World War II, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness and LGBT Americans were barred from service. President Bill Clinton announced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy in 1993, allowing gay, bisexual, and lesbian Americans to serve in the military if they remained "in the closet." This lesson plan explores that change to the law, as well as efforts to repeal DADT in 2010. An optional extension allows students to learn about the policy change in 2019, forbidding those who identify as transgender, or who have received medical treatment for gender dysphoria, from serving in the military.
Have students open the Handout: Vocabulary Preview: Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Google Doc).
Students will define the terms and phrases before using the videos for the assignment. They can search with Google or a dictionary for a definition.
As they watch the videos, students should update the chart to write down the relevance and connection between the terms and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) debate. Optionally, students may add quotes from speakers using these words in context.
The vocabulary list can be amended depending on level of student knowledge.
Assignment: Step 1
Instruct students to open the Handout: Note-Taking Chart: Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Google Doc).
Watch the first 2 clips as a class and ask students to fill in the first chart as they view. Review with students to ensure they understand the changes made by this policy, and address any misunderstandings.
If time and technology permit, students may also research the details of this policy further (see related articles for suggested resources).
Video Clip 1: Defense Secretary Aspin Testifies on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (2:44)
Assignment: Step 2
Have students watch clips 4 and 5 to hear from service members about their experience with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
They will fill in the second section of the Note-Taking Chart about what they experienced and how they were impacted by the law.
Video Clip 3: Major Jeff Clegorn's Experience With the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy (3:54)
Assignment: Step 3
After completing this section, students will watch clips from the 2010 debate about whether to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
With each clip, students will identify if the speaker supports or opposes repealing DADT and summarize and quote their arguments for or against.
This section can be completed by students individually, in pairs, or small groups, depending on time.
Video Clip 5: General Conway on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (3:03)
Video Clip 6: Rep. Pence Speaks Against Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (2:55)
Video Clip 7: Sen. Franken Opposes Don't Ask, Don't Tell (3:21)
In 2019, the Trump administration amended the policy on service members who are transgender.
Under the policy, no one who has transitioned to another gender, identifies as transgender, or who requires hormone treatment will be able to enlist.
The Supreme Court allowed this policy to go into effect while it is litigated in the lower courts.
Have students watch the following clips and answer the corresponding questions.
Video Clip 9: Nina Totenberg on the Transgender Troop Ban (3:44)
Video Clip 10: Naval Officer Paula Neira on Being Transgender in the Military (4:57)
Video Clip 11: Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann on Transgender Service Members (4:18)