OC Register of Deeds Brooks on Gay Marriage Licenses: ‘I Cannot Do That’

By Danny Hooley Posted March 9, 2014 at 12:29 am

Orange County Register of Deeds Deborah Brooks will face two challengers in this year’s election, and she parts with at least one of them on a significant issue.

Incumbent Orange County Register of Deeds Deborah Brooks told WCHL that she would not sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples, as long as the state doesn’t recognize gay marriage.

“My stand is that, I do whatever North Carolina law allows me to do,” she said. “If the state of North Carolina allowed me to issue same-sex marriage [licenses], I would do that. But I cannot do that until the state of North Carolina approves that law.”

She’s running for re-election in a May 6 Democratic primary that will determine who will serve the next term as Register of Deeds. There are no Republicans running for the office.

One opponent, former Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, told WCHL that, as Register of Deeds, he would definitely sign marriage licenses for gay couples, in defiance of state law.

He referred recently to a spate of federal court decisions knocking down gay-marriage bans in six states.

The former mayor said that, in his view, the U.S. Constitution trumps any such state laws.
Brooks’ other challenger, former Deputy Register of Deeds Sara Stephens, has not stated her views so explicitly.

In a recent conversation with WCHL, Stephens said that she would work to ensure that her office is “a friendly and welcoming place to all people.”

All three candidates say they’d like to facilitate the process of putting a big backlog of public records online.

“Currently, we’re scanning our birth certificates, our death certificates and marriage licenses,” said Brooks. “And this job is done by my staff. And this is saving the taxpayers money.

“And the real estate records I have, dating back to 1752, I scanned those documents, and they’re being reviewed. And they’re going to be online pretty soon. So I want to continue to make sure that we bring the documents up to par.”

Deborah Brooks worked at the Register of Deeds office for 34 years before being appointed to the top position in 2010 when her predecessor, Joyce Pearson, retired.

Brooks won election to the office that same year.

She told WCHL that her highest priority as Register of Deeds is saving taxpayers money.

“I dropped the copy work fee,” said Brooks. “They used to pay 25 cents per page. I dropped that to 15 cents per page. Most people online, they get their documents online – they don’t pay a dime.”

Brooks said her plans for another term include expanding payment methods for customers to include credit cards, and electronically recording all real estate documents.

In the coming weeks, WCHL and chapelboro.com will talk to candidates in all local races.

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