Daniel O'Donnell and John Banta
By Evan Lambert
Photography by Julie Skarratt
Like many good romances, this one starts with a kiss.
Danny O’Donnell and John Banta were juniors at the Catholic University of America, and O’Donnell had just stopped by Banta’s dorm room before dinner. Banta was reading; O’Donnell was lying on Banta’s bed waiting for him to finish. It was, for all intents and purposes, a regular, laid-back Friday night for the both of them.
But then, in an “earth-shattering” moment, Banta decided to close his book, walk across the room, and kiss O’Donnell. No prelude, no explanation. Just a kiss. And that’s how O’Donnell and Banta embarked upon a 31-year-long relationship.
Looking back, O’Donnell notes how tremendously unexpected that kiss was. After all, it happened in 1980, when there were “no out people”—so neither O’Donnell nor Banta had ever even hinted at being gay. And yet, despite the momentous nature of the kiss, the two refrained from having a conversation about its implications. Although they spent the night together, “There wasn’t much conversation going on after that.”
From that point on, their relationship was mostly smooth-sailing. After all, they had been best friends since freshman orientation, so they already had a strong foundation to work from.
“We got along pretty well. We never really fought, and we still don’t fight,” says O’Donnell.