Margarethe "Grethe" Cammermeyer

grethe_cammermeyercropped.jpgMargarethe "Grethe" Cammermeyer was born on March 24, 1942 in Oslo, Norway, and  served as a Colonel in the Washington National Guard and became a gay rights activist.

Cammermeyer and her parents immigrated to the United States in 1951, and she became a citizen in 1960, subsequently joined the Army Nurse Corps as a student. She received a B.S. in Nursing, and Lt. Cammermeyer went on active duty after graduation in 1963. In 1988, Colonel Cammermeyer accepted the position of Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard.

In 1989, during an interview for top-secret clearance, to apply for the War College, she disclosed that she is a lesbian. She was discharged from the military despite an exemplary military and civilian professional record. On that same day, 11 June 1992, her attorneys filed suit in Federal District Court in Seattle challenging the existing ban on homosexuals in the military and requesting COL. Cammermeyer’s reinstatement. In June 1994, Judge Thomas Zilly of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that her discharge and the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military were unconstitutional. She returned to the National Guard and served as one of the few openly gay or lesbian people in the U.S. military while the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was in effect, until her retirement in 1997.

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. From November 1999 through December 2001, she hosted her own internet radio talk show every day, where she and guests discussed relevant political, human rights, legal, health care, gay/lesbian/transgender and other issues. Subsequently Cammermeyer became involved in local politics and ultimately spent six years as the Chairperson of the local Democratic Party.  In June 2010, she was appointed to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, a committee which is appointed by the United States Secretary of Defense and which reports to the United States Department of Defense. The Point Foundation announced plans to honor Cammermeyer with its Point Legend Award in April 2011. In 2012, after same-sex marriage was legalized in Washington state, Cammermeyer and her partner of over 24 years, Diane Divelbess,  became the first same-sex couple to get a license in Island County.

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have contributed significantly in several ways to the advancement of our community. Limited by the number of days on the calendar, showcasing every individual who has made a major impact would be difficult. Yet, across decades and eras, revolutions and wars, and discovery and enlightenment, SPART*A honors past and present LGBT figures in our history this month.

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