'Family Ties' Mom Meredith Baxter Joins Group of Later-in-Life Lesbians

Actress Meredith Baxter says she's a lesbian, kept orientation secret for years.

ByABC News
December 2, 2009, 10:58 AM

Dec. 2, 2009 — -- Today, Meredith Baxter revealed the gender to which her heart is truly tied: women.

Baxter, the actress best known for playing hippie mom Elyse Keaton on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties," announced that she's a lesbian and has been keeping her sexual preference a secret for seven years.

"I am a lesbian and it was a later-in-life recognition," Baxter said on NBC's "Today" show. "Some people would say, well, you're living a lie and, you know, the truth is -- not at all. This has only been for the past seven years."

Baxter, 62 and thrice divorced, came out following the National Enquirer's November report that she was spotted "traveling with a female friend" on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by lesbian travel company Sweet.

"I've always lived a very private life." she said on "Today." "To come out and disclose stuff is very antithetical to who I am. ... [But] I did not want some tabloid to take the story and make it up -- I wanted it to be in my own words."

How did Baxter realize she was a lesbian? The actress said that after many failed relationships with men, seven years ago she started her first relationship with a woman, and her entire world view changed.

"I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening," she said. "I never fought it because it was like, 'oh, I understand why I had the issues I had early in life.' I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships."

Now, Baxter is four years into a relationship with Nancy Locke, a contractor she met through mutual friends. Her on-screen "Family Ties" family and her real life relatives knew about Locke and Baxter's sexuality before today's public declaration. When Baxter told her five children, they surprised her by revealing they already thought she was a lesbian.

"I said, 'I think I'm gay,' and my oldest boy said, 'I knew,' " the actress said. "The support from my family and anyone close to me has been so immediate and unqualified. I've really been blessed."