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
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 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
“It's a little like Sesame Street,”
Perhaps those unsuccessful diets have
served O'Donnell in unintended ways.
On the Net: A Bear's Life video
magazine is at abearslifetv.com