David Catania

David Catania Pioneers Portrait

David Catania arrived in Washington in 1986. 
Photo © Patsy Lynch

“I’ve had more luck in my life than anyone has a right to ask.”

"I really enjoy being an independent. I really enjoy being this party-of-one thing.  It just suits me."

"It's not easy to mature in the public eye.  We all have a bit of pride, and we hate to admit that we didn't come out of our mothers perfectly ready for prime time."

"Being the first openly gay member of the city council does break a barrier but what I want to stress is, I represent the entire city, and the concerns of the entire city are equally important to me."

David Catania achieved a goal dreamed of by the city’s gay community since the early 1970s: participation in the city’s legislature.  Elected in 1997 as an ‘out’ gay member of the DC Council to the seat Linda Cropp left to become Council Chair, David is now in his twelfth year as an at-large representative of the city’s citizens.  He continues to demonstrate that gayness doesn’t mean narrowness:  his firm conviction, dedication to principle and canny political savvy are deployed on behalf of all constituents.

As chair of the Committee on Health since 2005, he plays a central role in broadening health services and ensuring that funds appropriated are well spent.  David is well-known for his advocacy of access to prescription drugs, for ensuring  medical services for the uninsured and  the underserved, and for quality HIV/AIDS medical services.  He is also adamant about the importance of recognizing same-sex marriage.

By the time he arrived in Washington in 1986 to attend Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, David Catania knew how to live as either side of a majority/minority polity.  Raised simultaneously in both urban Kansas City, MO and rural Osawatomie, KS, he moved back and forth between two worlds, functioning successfully in both. 

Osawatomie, home to abolitionist John Brown and New England Free Staters determined to curb the advance of slavery, provided a lesson of hard work and the courage to take a firm stand.  It was Osawatomie that also gave him a love of baseball (he played second base).  In Kansas City, where his family had a home and a business, David learned to live as a minority, struggling economically, and learning lessons in fidelity (from Peaches who had scalded an unfaithful husband in bed with his mistress), more hard work, and honesty.  At one point his aunt told him “You’re so serious you make coffee nervous.”  Raised in a family of Lincoln Republicans, David was elected Youth governor of Missouri in 1985.

At the School of Foreign Service, David created an Eastern European Studies program, became proficient in German and developed a lifelong involvement with Central and Eastern Europe.  He interned with a West German member of parliament in the summer of 1988.  While an undergraduate he worked for Missouri Senator Jack Danforth and from 1989-1990 for Madeleine Albright.   Following his BS from Georgetown, he earned a JD at Georgetown Law.

While working in private practice, David Catania also became a successful advocate for his Kalorama neighborhood, a fact that drew him support in the 1997 special election.  His work in private practice also involved him in natural gas issues, particularly interstate regulation, a concern particularly personal because his family’s business in Missouri had been affected by natural gas prices.

Following his successful 1997 election and two re-elections as one of two Republican members of the City Council, David found it necessary to part company with the Republican party when the party and President George W Bush pressed for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.  In 2005, after leaving the party he registered as an independent, party-of-one.  He commented at the time, “I will no longer rationalize my association with a political party that has so badly betrayed my values and principles."