BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Everyone’s talking about “gay marriage” today, but singing star-activist Melissa Etheridge remembers that when she came out as a lesbian two decades ago, “those two words didn’t go together.”
“I’ve known for years we’re moving in this direction,” Etheridge, 50, told The Miami Herald, reflecting on President Barack Obama’s announced support for same-sex couples. “It’s something you can’t turn back. Ultimately, it’s the balance of life and love in our society.”
Etheridge, who performs Wednesday at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, says she is “pleasantly surprised” Obama made clear his beliefs before November’s election. “It’s a big statement and a joyous statement. It shows his confidence in this country, and that’s a nice thing.”
Many young LGBT people feel change hasn’t come fast enough, but Etheridge disagrees.
“They have to realize that 20 years ago, before they were born, it was very different. It was revolutionary to say you were gay. That’s a huge statement,” she says. “The young are the benefactors of this. They’re able to live their lives openly.”
Someone who couldn’t: John Etheridge, Melissa’s dad, who died in 1993.
“I’m finding out things about my own father. His latentness,” said Etheridge, who believes John “made a choice” to live a straight life and marry a woman.
Etheridge rocked the music world in 1993 with the album Yes I Am, a breakthrough recording that came out just after she did.
Immediately, Etheridge became among the world’s best-known out LGBT celebrities. “I have no discomfort about me,” she says. “I talk about it so much, boy, it’s just out there. I just assume people know that about me.”
Since coming out, Etheridge lived her private life publicly, including a battle with breast cancer in 2004.
In the 1990s, she and then-partner Julie Cypher had two children with rock star-sperm donor David Crosby. After she and Cypher split, Etheridge married actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. They had twins in 2006 and separated in 2010. Etheridge says she and Tammy share custody of the twins.
“Best man” at the Etheridge-Michaels nuptials in 2003, according to People magazine: Linda Wallem, who later created the Showtime TV series Nurse Jackie.
Etheridge and Wallem are now a couple.
“Am I single? No, I have a girlfriend. I’m a lesbian and don’t stay single very long,” Etheridge says. “I’m in love. She was my best friend for 10 years.”
Etheridge describes how she and Wallem crossed the “awkward” line from best friends to partners: “She was helping me through hard times a few years ago. Oh, wait a minute, you’re so nice and delightful. And you have a job, like me, and wow!”
The singing star has a message for her fans: “Please tell everyone I’m very happy. I’m with someone very nice.”
She’s happy the wild days are behind her: “The dark stuff is very sexy, but once you hit 50, you want someone loving and sexy, too.”
IF YOU GO
Melissa Etheridge performs 8 p.m. Wednesday at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood. Tickets $50 to $85. Ticketmaster.com.