Col. Grethe Cammermeyer On DADT Repeal: ‘The Vindication Didn’t Occur Until Today’

Thanks to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for inviting ThinkProgress to report live from its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Day Celebration.

Col. Grethe Cammermeyer has been fighting discrimination in the military for over 20 years, but her effort didn’t come to an end until yesterday when gays and lesbians were permitted — for the first time in American history — to serve openly.

Cammermeyer had come out as a lesbian 1989, when the Defense Department viewed homosexuality as incompatible with military service, and was separated from the National Guard shortly thereafter. She challenged her discharge and won reinstatement in 1994, after a federal court found the nation’s ban on gay military service unconstitutional. From 1994 until 1997, Cammermeyer served under the new DADT policy, inspiring the television movie Serving in Silence, starring Glenn Close. 

Cammermeyer continued to advocate for the repeal of DADT and was recently appointed to the Defense Advisory Council of Women in the Services. ThinkProgress caught up with the trail-blazing colonel at last night’s celebration, and she told us that even though her retirement feels like it was “a generation ago,” her fight for equality wasn’t achieved until this week:

FORD: What does it feel like to arrive at this day, so far after your own vindication?

CAMMERMEYER: Well, you know, the vindication didn’t occur until today, because the reason I started my challenge in 1989 was to get the policy overturned. And in its place, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was created, and there was no vindication just because I won and was reinstated. It was, you know, the thousands who have lost their careers since. And now, it’s like the time is finally here that they can serve with honor and dignity and — still a little trepidation of how is everything is going to go, but it all works out in the end. It’s probably the best day that I can think of for the American military as well as for American in general.

What I said some months ago when it was first overturned… Until the repeal, we in the service represented the flag. Now, the flag represents us.

Watch our full interview with Col. Cammermeyer: