Col. Grethe Cammermeyer is a tall woman with an infectious smile and an easygoing manner. I had enjoyed chatting with her and her adorable wife Diane over dinner the previous night, and I was excited to watch her presentation. She was part of a large group of trailblazers and entertainers that filled the ship for Olivia’s 40th Anniversary Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. I was invited to her stateroom to do a short interview. Check it out below.
Grethe strides onto the stage and opens with “I became a spokeswoman, but my story is your story. Coming out in the military wasn’t easy for me, but I felt it was my responsibility. Our house was graffiti-ed and I had to testify in front of Strahm Thurmond. He said things like ‘have you considered therapy?’ and ‘couldn’t you have just kept quiet?’ Homophobia was so entrenched in the military. 14,000 people were discharged—1st with the anti-gay policy and then later with DADT. Imagine how much that cost the American Government and how many wonderful dedicated members of the military were lost.”
Grethe helped pave the way for amazing people like General Tammy Smith, who shared the stateroom next door to mine with her wife Tracy. Interestingly, they met on an Olivia cruise in 2004 and decided as a couple for Tammy to apply to be a General.
In the beginning of their time together, they found sanctuary on the cruises, the only place they felt safe to be fully themselves as a couple. After DADT was repealed and Tammy became the first openly lesbian General, that has now all changed. Col. Cammermeyer and General Smith are two important trailblazers whose bravery and courage were instrumental in getting DOMA passed. Even though it is legal in many states, until DOMA passed, Gay marriage was still not recognized by the Federal Government. Now the legal spouses of military personnel (as well as other Federal government employees) will finally receive their partner’s benefits.
Edie Windsor, who was also on the cruise, was the plaintiff that challenged DOMA —it was her case that ultimately overturned DOMA—in the Supreme Court. Check out the film about her struggle on Netflix called Edie and Thea. It is a wonderful film that first aired on the Olivia Alaska Cruise in September and I was lucky enough to see it and meet the filmmakers. They can be contacted at BlessedBlessed productions.