Family Ties mom Meredith Baxter comes out

Dec 7, 2009 at 2:48 a.m. ET

Meredith Baxter has not been heard much from since her days as super-hip mom Elyse Keaton on the '80s hit series Family Ties,. Baxter is all the news now after revealing she's gay on The Today Show!

Meredith Baxter was forced to come out on the Today ShowThe former TV matriarch was clearly nervous at the start of her appearance on the Today Show on December 2 -- having only decided to come out publicly in response to news that a tabloid was going to publish photos of her with her girlfriend of four years, Nancy Locke.

"I have to admit to a certain level of anxiety," she told Matt Lauer. "I've always lived a very private life and to come out and disclose stuff is really antithetical to who I am…I guess I just wanted to say: I'm a lesbian."

When the interview was over she laughingly gasped, "I'm gonna die!"

But in truth, once her initial announcement was stuttered out, Baxter seemed more at ease, if not relieved to have the secret out, even as she discussed telling her five kids. Married three times, Baxter insisted she wasn’t living a lie all those years, but simply hadn't met the right woman until seven years ago.

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

While the news is a surprise to most fans, she says she and Locke, "live very out lives in Los Angeles," even having gone on a lesbian cruise.

"All my pals on Family Ties know," she revealed. That includes former costars Michael Gross, Michael J Fox, Justine Bateman and Tina Yothers. "It's all okay."

Lauer noted that by going a cruise with 1,200 lesbians, she may have been "asking to be revealed," and Baxter admitted as much -- explaining that she "didn't want to be worried all the time."

She was not, however, ready for "some tabloid to take the story and make it up." So, Baxter scheduled her big announcement on Today coupled with a story due in People Magazine.

"I'm extraordinarily happy," she said of her life.

While this was a very personal moment for her, she concluded her appearance by pointing to research that's shown that people who know someone gay or lesbian are less likely to vote to take away gay rights.

"I'm not a very political person, but it's been brought to my attention that this is a political act, even though that's not what it feels like to me … If you knew me before and you cared about me before, I'm the same woman. I'm the same mother to all these children. If I can be that lesbian you know now, okay."

Celebs often fear the public reaction to their coming out, but Baxter was once part of our TV family and SheKnows reminds Family Ties fans out there a pertinent line from the show's theme song: "There ain't nothing we can't love each other through."

Maybe this reveal will even work to reinvigorate Baxter's career…only time will tell.

The Today Show Baxter interview

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