Featured Records

  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010

During World War II, the U.S. Armed Forces established a policy that discharged homosexuals regardless of their behavior. In 1981, the Defense Department prohibited gay and lesbian military members from serving in its ranks with a policy that stated, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” In the decade following, 17,000 service members were discharged from their duties for being homosexual.

This spurred a new policy called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the Clinton Administration. In November 1993, the Defense Authorization Act put “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into effect, allowing gay and lesbian citizens to serve in the military as long as they did not make their sexual orientation public. Commanders were prohibited from inquiring about a service member’s orientation provided that they adhered to this condition. Additionally, the policy forbid military personal from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual service members and applicants.

By 2008, more than 12,000 officers had been discharged from the military for publicizing their homosexuality. On December 18, 2010, the Senate overturned the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by a 65-31 vote, which President Barack Obama signed a few days later. The repeal allows gay and lesbian military members to serve openly in the armed forces.

The first and signature pages of this document are on display in the “Landmark Document” case in the Records of Rights exhibition in the David M. Rubenstein Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from December 16, 2015, through March 15, 2016.

Past Featured Records
  • The Tuskegee Airmen
    The Tuskegee Airmen

    On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced the creation of the Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron – the nation’s first African American flying unit.

    The 99th Pursuit Squadron trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where there was an airfield and a civilian... Read more

  • 13th Amendment
    13th Amendment

    On December 6, 1865, slavery throughout the United States became illegal when Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    Four years earlier, however, Congress had passed a different 13th Amendment, stating, “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power... Read more

  • Refugee Act of 1980
    Refugee Act of 1980

    In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the need for a change in American policy concerning refugees became apparent as hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees... Read more

  • The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon
    The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

    “A bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark”
    –Coca-Cola Company, 1915

    Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same. To distinguish its product... Read more

  • Japanese Instrument of Surrender, 1945
    Japanese Instrument of Surrender, 1945

    On September 2, 1945, representatives from the Japanese government and Allied forces assembled aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which effectively ended World War II.

    The document was prepared by the U.S. War Department and approved... Read more

  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
    Voting Rights Act of 1965

    On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, a momentous achievement in the struggle for equal rights.

    When President Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment, freeing the nation’s slaves on January 31, 1865, it was not the end of... Read more

  • 1774 Articles of Association
    1774 Articles of Association

    On October 20, 1774, the First Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Association in response to the “Intolerable Acts” the British government had imposed on its subjects in the colonies. These punitive laws were passed in response to patriot uprisings in the north, particularly the... Read more

  • Sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s Lifeboat Storage Mechanism
    Sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s Lifeboat Storage Mechanism

    On May 1, 1915, when the RMS Lusitania departed New York, it was carrying a decent amount of passengers, despite the announcement from the German Embassy printed in newspapers on April 23 warning Americans traveling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so... Read more

  • Report concerning the death of Abraham Lincoln
    Report concerning the death of Abraham Lincoln

    On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln during a performance of ‘Our American Cousin’  at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC. Booth chose a moment with loud laughter from the audience, which obscured the sound of the pistol. The... Read more

  • Unbroken: Records from Louis Zamperini’s Incredible World War II Story
    Unbroken: Records from Louis Zamperini’s Incredible World War II Story

    On May 27, 1943, Army Air Force bombardier Louis “Louie” Zamperini’s B-24 airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The former U.S. Olympian survived, only to face months adrift at sea and years as a Japanese POW. His fate unknown in the U.S., Louie was declared dead... Read more