In the meantime the displays of affection are not for the TV cameras. It's just Spencer-Devlin and Roth sitting on their couch, thumbing through a photo album: pictures of them in Greece, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, with Spencer-Devlin's mother in nearby Carlsbad, with Roth's parents in Florida. They lean into each other, touching hands. They laugh over a funny story, absorbed in their life together.
Why now? Why not four years ago, when Spencer-Devlin vowed she would not consign Roth to the shadows?
Spencer-Devlin is quick to answer. "The two areas that keep gay people in the closet," she says, "are family and jobs."
Family was not a problem for Spencer-Devlin. Her mother, Pat Harrington Devlin—a very good amateur golfer who competed a number of times against Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the '40s—has long accepted her daughter's sexual orientation. "What more could a parent ask for than for her child to be happy and loved?" she says. Her father, Dan Spencer, and stepfather, Bill Devlin, are dead.
The problem was her fear of losing the only endorsement contract she had at the time, with Izzo, manufacturer of dual shoulder strap golf bags. "In 1992, when I first wanted to come out, I was basically broke," she says. "I had blown my savings during a manic episode in '90. So I decided not to rock the boat."
With her improved play in 1995, the waters seemed calmer. By then she had two new endorsement deals, with MET-Rx, USA Inc. (a company that manufactures food supplements) and Callaway Golf. As Spencer-Devlin tells it, she woke up one morning and said, "It's time." If she feared the reaction of tour officials and sponsors, they quickly put those fears to rest. The division head at MET-Rx simply shrugged. Callaway's president, Don Dye, is more voluble. "As far as we're concerned," he says, "if it doesn't interfere with her ability to hit a golf ball and she continues to show the kind of integrity that she clearly does, she's our kind of spokesperson."
The response of colleagues to her plan to come out was more predictable. At the HealthSouth Inaugural in January, one player told her. "This isn't going to help the LPGA." But others pledged support. "If you dare to be happy, people should accept that," said Swedish star Helen Alfredsson.
To the LPGA any unpleasantness surrounding the coming out is outweighed by the benefits of having a face to put on its lesbian minority. "When you label someone with a single word, a stereotype gets attached, and the individual's real qualities get clouded," said commissioner Ritts. "Muffin is dramatic, she's warm, she's funny, and she's a truly gifted athlete who has had to contend with great travails in life. If someone tags her as gay and never experiences the rich colors of her life—well, it's a lost opportunity for them."
With the story about to break, Spencer-Devlin showed no signs of nervousness last week. Asked if she feared the reaction of religious conservatives and talk show hosts, she shook her head. Asked if she worried that the added notoriety might exacerbate her mood swings, she hesitated. "I think that keeping the secret may have contributed to my illness. Whatever the consequences, being honest should be less stressful, not more."
Of one thing she was certain: Her coming out was not an event confined to a single week in 1996. "You don't just do it once," she said, staring at the sun-dappled sea and at Catalina Island hugging the horizon like a sleeping cat. "It's a constant thing. You are on the line with it for the rest of your life." And for a moment she just fixed on the sky, saying nothing—hoping, maybe, for a rainbow.