Meredith Baxter

Lesbian actress and producer Meredith Baxter — perhaps best known as Elyse Keaton from Family Ties — will keynote this year’s Black Tie Dinner, organizers said Thursday, Sept. 6.

Baxter, 65, an advocate for women’s and human rights and breast cancer research, came out in 2009 on The Today Show. She signed with Broadway Books to write a memoir of her personal and professional life, Untied, which was published in 2011. On a local note, Baxter also recently narrated the documentary film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge.

“Meredith Baxter is a champion of women’s rights and devotes much of her time speaking out on issues about which she is passionate,” BTD co-chair Chris Kouvelis said. “Her life experiences reflect our theme for this year’s dinner: ‘Affair of the Heart.’ Every cause that Meredith involves herself with is an affair of her heart in every way.”

Noted for her accessible portrayals of intelligent, independent women who struggle with the challenges before them, Baxter achieved early success with a string of TV hits, including the CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie; the critically acclaimed ABC drama Family, for which she received an Emmy nomination; and the perennially popular Family Ties. Following Family Ties, Baxter made a seamless transition to drama, quickly establishing herself as one of the most sought-after actors for TV movies. In 1991, she received an Emmy nomination for her performance as the lead character in A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story. In 1994, she garnered a Daytime Emmy nomination for her role as a lesbian mother raising a young son in the CBS After School Special, Other Mothers. She also received a special award for public awareness from the National Breast Cancer Coalition for her work on the television film, My Breast (1994), a black comedy about the true story of journalist Joyce Wadler’s successful battle with breast cancer.

“In many respects, Meredith Baxter is America’s favorite mom,” BTD co-chair Mitzi Lemons said. “When she decided to come out in a very public way, she paved the way for so many people to follow in her footsteps. In Meredith, they see a friendly, accessible and non-threatening person who has made the decision to come out, and perhaps that removes some of the fear and stigma from their own coming-out process.”

Baxter has a line of skin care products and donates a portion of the profits from sales to the Meredith Baxter Fund for Breast Cancer Research, which promotes prevention and research, as well as free mammograms for low-income women.

The 31st annual Black Tie Dinner will be at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel on Nov. 3. Although the event is officially sold out, anyone interested in tickets that may become available should contact Dan Godfrey at

Comedian and actress Caroline Rhea will serve as master of ceremonies at this year’s dinner. Transgender advocate, writer and musician Chaz Bono will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award, an award given to an individual, organization or company that has made a significant contribution of national scope to the LGBT community. Architect, volunteer and humanitarian Lucilo Peña will receive the Kuchling Humanitarian Award, presented to individuals who have made extraordinary gifts of their time and talents on behalf of the LGBT community. Plano-based J.C. Penney will receive the Black Tie Dinner Media Award, given in recognition of positive, increased awareness of LGBT issues in the media.