Margarethe "Grethe" Cammermeyer




Margarethe "Grethe" Cammermeyer. Born in Oslo Norway on March 24th, 1943 while the country was under Nazi occupation Margarethe is a former colonel in the Washington National Guard and a gay right activist. She became a United States citizen in 1960 and joined the U.S. Army and signed up for the Army Student Nurse Program in 1961 to help pay for her education. She received her B.S. in Nursing from the University of Maryland in 1963.

Margarethe was the highest-ranking official in the United States military to acknowledge her homosexuality while still in active duty. She successfully challenged the military’s policy banning homosexuals prior to the implementation of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” She served a number of years in the Washington State National Guard as an open lesbian.

She met her partner, Diane Divelbess, in 1988, when she was 46 — after she had ended a 15-year marriage to a man and had four sons. In 1989, in response to a question during a routine security clearance interview, she disclosed that she is a lesbian. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was not yet in effect at the time, and the National Guard began military discharge proceedings against her.

On June 11, 1992, she was honorably discharged from the military. Cammermeyer filed a lawsuit against the decision in civil court. In June 1994, Judge Thomas Zilly of the federal district court in Seattle ruled her discharge, and the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, unconstitutional. She returned to the National Guard and served as one of the few officially accepted openly gay or lesbian people in the armed forces until her retirement in 1997 when she received full military privileges after 31 years of service in the U.S. military. A television movie about Cammermeyer's story, Serving in Silence, was made in 1995, with Glenn Close starring as Cammermeyer. Its content was largely taken from Cammermeyer's autobiography of the same name. After retirement, Cammermeyer ran for the United States Congress in Washington's 2nd congressional district in 1998. She won the Democratic primary, but lost in the general election to Republican incumbent Jack Metcalf.

Her spirit of public service remains active. She hosted an internet talk show and recently she returned to law school.

One of her focuses is to continue to speak out on behalf of the gay and lesbian service members who serve in the military under an unjust Don't Ask, Don't Tell law. Another was the need to continue to challenge the anti-gay rhetoric in society, the ignorance, and the notion that, somehow, as gay and lesbian people we should be judged by another's God.