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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Meredith Baxter, a star of the 1980's sitcom "Family Ties", said on Wednesday she was a lesbian as media reports and published photos of her and a woman embracing began to surface in public.
Baxter, 62, told NBC's "The Today Show" that she discovered she was gay seven years ago, several years after her divorce from her third husband. She said her five children, who range from ages 25 to 42, supported her when she told them.
"I am a lesbian, and it was a later-in-life recognition," she said. "I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships."
Her comments came amid recent online photographs of her walking with her girlfriend of four years, building contractor Nancy Locke, and reports that she attended a Caribbean cruise with some 1,200 lesbians, which she confirmed.
Baxter said she decided to speak to the media to set the facts straight. She also said she was once so paranoid the media would expose her secret that she asked Locke, who was openly gay, to park her truck farther away.
"She said, 'No'. I thought, 'All right.' I had to reach a level of comfort. It wasn't fair to push her back into some kind of secrecy, and the nice thing is that we live very 'out' lives in Los Angeles," Baxter said.
Baxter played Elyse Keaton, mother of Michael J. Fox's conservative-minded teenager Michael P. Keaton, from 1982 to 1989. She has had guest and recurring television roles since then and also runs a skincare company.
Reporting by Corinne Heller; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte