Daniel O’Donnell, First Openly-Gay New York Assemblyman, Talks About His Wedding: ‘This Is About Love’


All you need is love! And for Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell — the right to marry.

Runnin’ Scared was tired of talking to folks about the dark, gloomy world of New York City politics. All that anger and attacking gives us a headache sometimes!

Why not a love story this Friday? Turns out, that’s exactly what this is.

On Sunday, Assembly member Danny O’Donnell — who represents parts of the Upper West Side and Harlem, and is the first openly-gay man elected to the State Assembly — will marry his longtime partner in a big wedding celebration in front of his friends, family, and elected colleagues who helped legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

O’Donnell, who has been a big advocate for marriage equality, is tying the knot with his partner of 31 years, John Banta.

Runnin’ Scared caught up with O’Donnell this morning to chat about his big day. He’s a bit nervous.

“I’m a little anxious…It’s a lot of people,” he said, when we asked him how he was feeling about the wedding, which has more than 400 guest on the list. “After 31 years, I’m not worried if he is the right one.”

“Many people grow up and have fantasies about what this day is going to be like,” he said. “I didn’t really have that.”

“If you would’ve told me when I got elected that I would…be having this celebration, I would’ve said, ‘Take a couple of aspirin and call me in the morning.’ I never would’ve believed it…Now, most of the people who voted ‘yes’ will be in the room,” he said.

The assemblyman, who was elected in 2002, has introduced five bills to legalize same-sex marriage over the last four years.

Since the historic legislation passed last summer, O’Donnell knew he would eventually be one of the many New Yorkers getting his marriage license and tying the knot.

“When you are deprived of something…you don’t understand what it means to be given that chance…It was clear to me that John and I would take this option,” he said.

O’Donnell met his partner on the first day of college in Washington D.C. at the Catholic University of America, he told us. Now, decades later, the couple is getting married with a wedding celebration that he said would be a big 1970s disco dance party. Soprano Ruth Ann Swenson will be singing at the celebration.

His family (which includes sister Rosie O’Donnell) will be there, and he said he’s expecting a number of New York pols, possibly Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. The couple will take a short, but long overdue, honeymoon trip to Paris.

After we asked him how it feels to final have this opportunity, he said, “It makes me feel like everybody else. I now refer to weddings with straight couples as ‘gender-discordant marriages.'”

He took a brief moment on the phone to be political with us — taking a jab at GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who has compared gay marriage to paganism. “Newt Gingrich has been married three times,” he said. “The story is horrifyingly lacking in respect for the institution [of marriage]…yet he says that my marriage is paganism. It’s absurd. It’s just absurd.”

For O’Donnell, there’s several reasons to get married. One — “It provides protection for him if something should happen to me,” he said.

But let’s be real here. What’s the real reason — the one that makes Runnin’ Scared feel all gushy inside. “In the end, this is about love. I love him. He loves me. We founded a union and connection with each other,” he said.

“He’s an extraordinarily warm and giving person and hes’ been extraordinarily good to me,” he said of his partner. O’Donnell spoke fondly of Banta’s strong support of the same-sex marriage campaign. “He had a lot to do with making it happen, and now we can dance our hearts out on Sunday.”