Jul/2019

Hi Bryan Here….

On Sept. 20, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) goes into effect.  HBO will tell the strange-but-true tale of the U.S. military’s ban on gays and lesbians from its implementation, through passionate protests and debates, and finally to its 2011 repeal.  A timely and historical look at the legacy of gays and lesbians in the military, THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL illustrates the tumultuous evolution of the controversial policy that fostered hate and intolerance within the military – and undermined the very freedoms American forces defend – by forcing many soldiers to lie and live in secrecy.

Directed by Emmy® winners Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL will have a sneak preview MONDAY, SEPT. 19 (midnight-1:30 a.m. ET/PT) on HBO, followed by the documentary’s first prime-time play Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

Other HBO playdates:  Sept. 20 (12:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m.), 24 (1:00 p.m.) and 28 (6:30 p.m., 4:05 a.m.), and Oct. 3 (9:30 a.m.) and 9 (8:30 a.m.)

HBO2 playdates:  Sept. 26 (10:30 a.m., 11:00 p.m.) and Oct. 5 (8:00 p.m.), 7 (3:00 p.m.) and 19 (8:00 a.m.)

There are an estimated 60,000 gay Americans currently on active duty, and at least one million living gay veterans in the U.S.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton encountered vehement opposition when he tried to deliver on his campaign promise to lift a 50-year ban on gays in the military.  The result was the compromise legislation Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which allowed gays to serve in the military provided they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation.

In this atmosphere of suspicion, gay soldiers on active duty have had to avoid even the simplest questions (“How was your weekend?” or “Do you have kids?”) just to keep their jobs.  THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL examines the consequences of the policy and the fight to overturn it, a battle that would last 17 years, span three presidencies and result in the discharge of 13,368 active service members.

As the documentary shows, the history of DADT is strange indeed, from the “queen for a day” presumption that is written into DADT, which allows straight men to have gay sex as long as they could prove they were not gay, to the 54 gay Arabic linguists who were discharged prior to 2003, while intercepted terrorist conversations were left un-translated, to the port cities where gay soldiers were discharged during World War II, becoming the gay-friendly meccas of today.

Filmed during the final 15 months of the law, THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL interweaves archival news footage and interviews with key players, from policy experts to Pentagon personnel, as well as personal accounts by a number of actively serving gay soldiers (obscured from the camera because speaking about their sexual orientation violates Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).

Among the featured subjects are:

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the most influential national organization dedicated to the repeal of DADT.

Former Pa. Rep Patrick Murphy, a Bronze Star Iraqi war veteran, who led the fight in Congress to repeal DADT.  Straight and married, he feels strongly that if you are willing to take a bullet for your country, you should be allowed to serve.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, whose distinguished 20-year military career included missions against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets.  Recipient of 30 awards and nine air medals, he publicly battled DADT for years during active service.

Mass. Rep. Barney Frank, a Member of the House of Representatives since 1981, and considered by many the most prominent gay politician in the U.S.

Ct. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a senior Senate member and strong and vocal supporter of the rights of gays to serve openly in the armed forces.

Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, the highest-ranking service member to be discharged for being gay.  In 1993, she testified at the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing regarding the military ban on gays.

Jeh C. Johnson, general counsel, Department of Defense.

Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have produced a variety of acclaimed nonfiction programming, including 24 documentaries for HBO and CINEMAX, such as “Heidi Fleiss:  The Would-Be Madam of Crystal,” “Monica in Black and White,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and, most recently, the Emmy®-nominated “Wishful Drinking.”

THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL is directed and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato; supervising producer, Jacqueline Glover; executive producer, Sheila Nevins; producers, Mona Card and Gabriel Rotello; editors, Langdon F. Page, Chris Conway; music by David Benjamin Steinberg.

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