Public Policy Process and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

November 2020

The public policy process as defined by Kingdon (2011) poorly articulates the stages in which the American public is involved during the passage of legislation. In the agenda-setting/identification stage of the public policy process, the public is the most involved. Within the first two stages, various groups attempt to facilitate and cultivate public opinion towards their argument about a policy. This paper uses the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 to argue that the public is the most involved in the first stages of the public policy process. Through an in-depth analysis of the process to pass the bill, inclusive of the actors and legislative process, I conclude that the public is primarily involved in the first stage of Kingdon’s process. Using quantitative data provided by the Human Rights Campaign, I confirm that the public was most involved during this stage due to their invoked engagement. Thus, this study builds on the public policy process model by expanding the theory behind Kingdon’s work. Specifically, it illuminates stages in which non-elite actors are involved beyond Kingdon’s elite framing of the process. By using a social rights bill, this study helps to define how the public policy process model applies to a specific type of policy.