Openly gay representative Daniel O'Donnell is known for many things including being a huge advocate of gay marriage, being the first openly gay man to serve in the New York Assembly, being the brother of entertainer Rosie O'Donnell, being mistaken for Irish singer Daniel Francis Noel O'Donnell or English footballer Daniel “Danny” O'Donnell, and being a teddy bear. Yes, New York Rep. O'Donnell is an active member of the bear community.

O'Donnell has often spoken of the many diets he has undergone – grapefruit, spaghetti, Weight Watchers – to reduce weight, and how “as a person of size, and a person who is very hairy, I would often feel uncomfortable going places” where there might be a certain expectation as a gay man.

He's a charmer, most people say. He met John Banta, the love of his life, at Catholic University in 1978, and the couple began dating two years later. Banta – director of special events for the Metropolitan Opera – and O'Donnell have been together 28 years. The pair often appear together at legislative gatherings. O'Donnell told the New York Times he brings Banta along so his colleagues can see what a gay couple looks like.

“That wasn't accidental,” he told the paper. “I knew if I wanted my colleagues to treat me and treat my community with equality, they would have to see John and I through the prism of a relationship.”

At a gathering in February, he told a circle of students with the LGBT group Q that gay marriage was deeply personal for him but “I don't think, in the end, to most people, that this really matters.” Adding that young people especially understand that it's about love.

The New York Assembly's approval – and the Senate's disapproval – of a gay marriage bill this year was a nearly foregone conclusion. But it was O'Donnell's passion that helped push the bill through the first time around in 2007.

“I want a license that all of you have; some of you had it two or three times,” he said on the Assembly floor in 2007.

In 2005 the salt-and-pepper goteed assemblyman graced the cover of A Bear's Life. The politician was pictured sitting barefoot in a conservative dark blue suit and an open collar white shirt. The caption underneath read: Attorney, Assemblyman and hot bear.

And last month, the 48-year-old wanna-be husbear returned to the magazine to help launch the premiere episode of the publication's online video magazine. The bears caught up with O'Donnell milling around Ptown Bear Week 2008 along with 4,000 other bears in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

“Provincetown is a great place to be,” O'Donnell told producers. “It's fun all year round, but it's particularly fun for bear week. Everybody's welcome. You have people of all generations, all sizes, all shapes and everybody just gets along.”

“It's a little like Sesame Street,” he added.

Perhaps those unsuccessful diets have served O'Donnell in unintended ways.

On the Net: A Bear's Life video magazine is at