After recent reports say ‘Family Ties’ mom Meredith Baxter was spotted on a gay cruise, the actress is coming clean on ‘Today,’ saying: “I want to say I’m a lesbian, and it was a later-in-life recognition.” In an interview with Matt Lauer, Baxter — who has been married three times and has five children — says she figured out her sexuality seven years ago.

“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 told Lauer. She says she didn’t disclose this before because she has “always lived a very private life,” and that “to come out and disclose stuff is very antithetical to who I am.”

Baxter says that she realized she needed to come forward because she “got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was an awakening. I understood why I have the issue in my life … I was involved with people who made me think they’re the problem. It never occurred to me, that it was me,” Baxter said.

The actress has been dating building contractor Nancy Locke for four years and acknowledges that she’s the reason she decided to come out publicly.

“As much as my family knew, I was not ready to make any big announcement, I didn’t want to do that. And there was one time when I was concerned that there might be some press interest … I didn’t know but I got a little paranoid and Nancy’s a general contractor so she has a truck … And I said, ‘Could you park down the street, please?’ and she said, ‘No.'” Meredith explained.

“I had to reach a level of comfort because it wasn’t fair to push her back into secrecy. We live very out lives in Los Angeles,” she said.

According to LimeLife, Locke, who is 54, and Baxter met through mutual friends.

Speculation about Meredith’s sexuality was raised when tabloid magazine The National Enquirer reported that she was spotted on a gay cruise recently.

Baxter shot to fame thanks to her role as matriarch Elyse Keaton on the hit ’80s sitcom ‘Family Ties.’ Before her success there, she already had a long career in showbiz, with acting gigs dating all the way back to 1971. She had stints on ‘The Love Boat,’ ‘Family’ and ‘Bridget Loves Bernie,’ among other shows and movies.

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