NYC’s ’Naked Cowboy’ Ready to Marry Gay Couples

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Jun 27, 2011

Happy gay and lesbian couples in New York looking to tie the knot once the state’s new marriage equality law comes into effect next month have a friend in Manhattan’s "Naked Cowboy," Robert Burck, despite his having said last October that he would like to run for president as a member of the Tea Party.

Burck, who is officially registered with the city as a marriage officiant, was ready to offer marriages to same-sex couples even before June 24’s historic vote in Albany, when the New York State Senate passed marriage equality by a dramatically slender margin, and with the support of GOP lawmakers. The Village Voice reported on June 21 that Burck, who is an ordained minister, had declared July 3 would be "Gay Marriage Day."

Burck also declared himself ready to marry same-sex couples regardless of the final outcome in the state senate, which kept gay and lesbian families on tenterhooks for days past the originally scheduled June 20 end of the legislative session. The bill was finally passed several days into a special session.

"I’m still gonna perform my weddings," Burck said in advance of the vote, adding that though his services would not have legal standing in the event that lawmakers chose to kill the bill, "It’s a sentimental thing. If a gay couple wanted to do that, who’s going to stop them? I don’t think it’s illegal for me to perform these weddings, but I mean, even if it is, how seriously are people gonna take a guy playing guitar in his underwear?

"I guess my status as an ordained minister might make it a little bit more serious, but I’m just trying to throw my fame behind a good cause," the Naked Cowboy added.

Burck ordinarily charges $499 to perform a wedding on Times Square, he told the Village Voice, but on July 3 he will perform the services for same-sex couples free of charge. Burck also said that he would make the occasion an annual event.

"I’m not a homosexual or a hypocrite, I am an American," Burck declared in a news release. "It is hypocritical, in my opinion, for our legislature to discriminate against gays and lesbians regarding same-sex marriages.

"Gay & Lesbian Americans should be provided the same freedom and equal rights as heterosexuals allowing them to be legally wed if they so desire, and it should be regarded as ’moral’ for anyone to be willing to commit to a monogamous relationship bound in holy matrimony," Burck added.

The Village Voice asked Burck about his having said he would like to run for president as a conservative candidate. "I don’t think you have to believe in a viewpoint to represent as a politician," Burck responded.

"In the same way, I’m not gay, and I come from Cincinnati, Ohio, where things are a little more rigid.... I still think that if the people of NYC believe in gay marriage, I should give the people what they want," Burck added. "I can also understand what gay people go through. Especially the more homophobic people look at me and think, ’Who’s that gay guy?’ "

The Naked Cowboy has been an ordained minister with Universal Ministries since 2008. Universal Ministries offers to ordain people via an online application process, and for a nominal fee.

Burck told the Village Voice that he had presided over about a dozen weddings, though he added that almost half of them had been for one individual on multiple occasions.

Burck has been playing his guitar in Times Square dressed in nothing but jockey shorts, cowboy hat, and cowboy boots for more than a decade. His performances are not limited to summer months or good weather; a CNN article from February, 2008, noted that he plays and sings in inclement weather and in wintertime, too, and that he never bundles up against the elements while he’s performing.

Burck’s announcement of presidential aspirations was not his first flirtation with politics. In July of 2009, Burck announced that he would run for Mayor of New York City, saying, "No one knows how to do more with less than yours truly, and that’s the kind of thinking I plan on sharing with my fellow New Yorkers when you elect me."

Burck dropped out of the race a few months later.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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