As Cindy Brady on the hit 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch, Susan Olsen helped show the world that a family didn't have to be traditional to be loving and supportive. It's a lesson she learned herself from Robert Reed, who played Brady Bunch patriarch Mike Brady on the series. Reed (born John Robert Rietz Jr.) was gay -- but kept his sexuality a secret for fear that it would damage his career and his reputation.
In an open letter on her Facebook fan page, the now 51-year-old Olsen pays tribute to her late TV father and voices her support for marriage equality. She posted the note earlier this week, as the Supreme Court was hearing arguments for and against California's Prop 8, a ban on same-sex marriage.
"As a child, I was BLESSED to have another father figure in my life. He did not replace my own beloved, Norwegian version of Jed Clampett, nor would he have wanted to. He simply harmonized with all of my family values and brought his own heart to our table," the former child star writes of Reed, who died in 1992 after a six-month battle with colon cancer. (The actor was also HIV positive, which his doctor listed as a "significant condition contributing to death.")
Calling him a "true king among men," Olsen goes on to note the immense impact Reed had on her life. "This tempetuous actor who bottle fed puppies when he wasn’t quarreling with the heads of networks shaped my heart as much as my biological parents did," she writes. "So I really can honestly say, 'My dad was gay.'"
"I can also say that being gay killed him. Because it was so taboo, he could never make peace with himself. He never allowed himself to have a genuine love. He was forever taunted by his own disdain for the natural inclinations that he was BORN WITH," she says.
"Bob was a family man. Had he been allowed to form a relationship with another man, he would have been the best husband ever and might still be alive," she continues. "But Bob could not be at peace with this because the people surrounding him shoved their own judgement down his throat and, sadly, he bought into it. He thought he was wrong."
The actress explains that other people's condemnation of her beloved TV dad is one of the reasons she "steers clear" of religion, though she says she's "good pals" and has a "clear line of communication" with God. "All I truly know is what works right here, right now," she notes.
"What works is love. What doesn’t work is judgement," she concludes. "If two people love each other enough to want their union consecrated by a mythological being -- they are undoubtedly insane, but LET THEM HAVE AT IT!!"
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Susan Olsen, The Brady Bunch's Cindy Brady, Writes Moving Tribute to Gay TV Dad Robert Reed: "He Was a Family Man"