It’s time to start having bootleg weddings

Head to your hidden forest compound straight away so the government can never find you

Hey, straight people, what are we doing involving the government when we get married? What’s that about? If Malcolm Turnbull said that my fiancee and I made a lovely couple, that would actually make me like her a little bit less. It’s weird to seek that blessing. The government sucks, I hate them, and when I get married they will be an extremely intentional omission from the guest list.

If there was a wedding tradition of signing a document at a wedding that declared that bride and groom were both of white ancestry and that no race-mixin’ was going on, would you sign it? Or would you be grossed out at the idea of involving it in your wedding at all? Heads up: that’s what the marriage certificate is.

Marriage predates law and the written word. Before we had governments, marriages were just recognised by a group of peers. But our government hold the position that a marriage between people of the same sex isn’t “real”, regardless of how many peers believe that it is. The state’s refusal to recognise gay marriage is a contemptible position, and as such, that position should be treated with contempt. Let’s just cut the government out by getting married without them.

Seriously, straight people, how often does your legal relationship status meaningfully affect your dealings with the state? Like… when you’re immigrating, when you’re paying tax, when you’re adopting a kid maybe? I think that’s the whole list. It’s not a long list, and the items that are on it either disappear with de facto status or represent a handful of occurrences in a lifetime. If you were getting by fine without the government’s involvement when you were just dating your partner, you’ll continue to get by without them when you’re married. Plus, getting bootleg married leaves you free to legally marry a gay friend who’s trying to adopt or a foreign friend who’s trying to immigrate. Win-win!

We’ve got this myth that while all the ceremony around a wedding is indeed important, the actual marriage exists in the form of that signed marriage certificate. After all, if it’s not registered with the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, it’s not a real marriage! Just like how when you get born, you’re technically still in the womb until the document is signed; just like how if you can avoid finalising your death certificate, your dried up old corpse continues to go on living forever, and can even be elected Prime Minister.

Here’s how to get married:

  • get some mates around or pick a place and all of you go there
  • stand up in front of everyone with your significant other
  • say “A, babe, I love you, you absolutely rule, I’m actually swearing an old-school vow right now to stay with you until one of us is dead.”
  • try not to tear up when A says “B, same deal, my love gauge is maxed out, I’m hanging around until you or I turn into some bones, and that’s a legit oath like a viking or warlock would do.”
  • exchange rings or do a handfasting or a candle ceremony or whatever. or don’t. cut your palms and do that freaky blood swap if you’re ok with the risks. pick a thing and have fun with it.
  • get to kissin’! Hell yes in front of everyone, you’re allowed! you’re married now!
  • let all of your friends and family there make a happy ruckus
  • skip the paperwork. You wouldn’t pause your wedding to do your tax return or a lease transfer, why are you signing a god damn contract in the middle of a party
  • crack open the champers
  • build a life together with your new spouse

Now, going forward, you can do these things with complete and total honesty and nobody can stop you:

  • describe yourself as married
  • refer to A as your husband/wife/spouse
  • change your name so that you and your spouse have the same surname
  • check “married” on a census
  • in response to someone claiming you’re not “really” married, tell them stone cold to go and fuck themselves

There are a few things that maybe you should hold off on:

  • signing a statutory declaration saying you’re legally married
  • claiming certain tax and other legal circumstances (unless the state categorises your relationship as de facto, in which case, go for it)
  • that’s about it

If later on something comes up where you really, really do need to be legally married, you can just get legally married then. And that way you can be aware that it’s specifically to get through some red tape, rather than having anything to do with how you actually relate to your spouse.

Now the bootleg option is, of course, absolutely available for queer folks too, but I feel like decades of being told to just suck it up and accept civil unions could quite fairly stink up any other compromise. Gay people: get bootleg married or hold out for the whole deal, whatever feels right. But straight people: get bootleg married or don’t do it at all. It’s we straight folk who have the luxury of choice here, and in the face of the government’s decision to deny gay people a legal marriage it’s our duty to undermine it.

And yes, a bootleg marriage is only 95% of a full marriage, and there’ll absolutely be moments when you’re reminded that the government doesn’t value you because of your decision. But the government also demonstrably doesn’t value women, refugees, renters, cyclists, people whose income is derived from labour instead of capital, people who want to continue living past 2050… the list goes on. The government is a group of hateful and withered old ghouls who don’t know happiness and don’t deserve to. Caring about what they think is buying into the propaganda that they dictate culture as well as law.

The government has the power to control one tiny, non-essential aspect of marriage. That’s as far as their reach extends, and no further. Of course they’re going to tell you that the bit they own is the bit that matters.

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