The Arkansas matriarch who is an anti-LGBT rights crusader and star of TLC's hit reality show 19 Kids and Counting has a lesbian sister who has been kept in the shadows for most of the program's seven years.
Radar Online is reporting Michelle's sister Evelyn Ruark, 63, is in a long-term, committed, lesbian relationship with Sharon Callahan. They live in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Hollywood Gossip reports the Ruark clan moved from Arkansas in the 1980s. Michelle Ruark, the youngest, stayed behind and married boyfriend Jim Bob Duggar.
Radar checked the archives of 19 Kids and Counting and found a first season appearance by Ruark, in which she explains her relationship with her sister, who is 15 years younger: "I am the third oldest daughter of the Ruark family," Evelyn said in the November 2008 episode. "I think my mother and father wanted two different families, because Michelle and Carol are the second generation. And the rest of us, the first five, were pretty much grown when they were younger."
Ruark is not identified as lesbian in the episode and her appearance at a family reunion is shown only briefly. No mention is made of her sexuality or her partner.
Ruark and the other members of Michelle's family have stayed silent throughout the show's run about the Duggars, their campaigns against marriage equality and transgender civil rights and about Evelyn's lesbian relationship.
However, Ruark's partner has not been silent. Radar Online reported Sharon Callahan, 52, told The National Enquirer in 2010 she and her "significant other" suspect the Duggars are connected to the fundamentalist QuiverFull movement, a controversial Chrstian sect that promotes precreation toward the building of large families, encourages women to be wives, mothers and homemakers, and denounces all forms of birth control, even so-called "natural" family planning.
"We are worried about them," Callahan told the Enquirer. "We have often thought that QuiverFull is a cult. It appears to be brainwashing to me."
The QuiverFull website even has links to books, DVDs and a 38-hour "audio collection" about Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar and their family.
The Duggars addressed the alleged connection on their website, denying involvement with the QuiverFull movement. "We are simply Bible-believing Christians who desire to follow God's Word and apply it to our lives."
And with only one other exception, the connection between Michelle and her sister Evelyn has never been acknowledged by the Duggars: their oldest son, Josh, 26, the head of the Family Research Council Action, spoke about his gay aunt on a radio show in 2013, insisting his Aunt Evelyn shares his opposition to marriage equality.
"I have an aunt who has chosen to live that life and I love my aunt. I think she is an amazing person," he said, but "she believes that marriage is between one man and one woman."
Despite Duggar's declaration of love for his aunt, RightWingWatch reported last month he described being gay and lesbian as a "sad, lonely lifestyle."
"It just seemed to me that one of the cruelest jokes the devil has ever played is to have that lifestyle described as 'gay,'" he said.
Attempts by The Advocate to reach Evelyn Ruark, Sharon Callahan, and Michelle Duggar for comment were unsuccessful.