O-Pinion

The man in the middle of gay marriage

rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

A lot of people have opinions about Senate Bill 2, which lets magistrates and registers of deeds opt out of involvement with same-sex marriages. But David Granberry is one of the relatively few people in Mecklenburg County directly affected.

Granberry is Mecklenburg’s Register of Deeds. The House’s override of Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto today changes his professional life. A gay couple comes into his office to obtain a marriage license pretty much every day.

If one of his deputies recuses herself, she can’t issue any marriage licenses for six months. That means that person has to be retrained to do other work in the office, and someone else might have to be trained in the marriage work, and taken off their area of expertise.

Senate Bill 2 “is just not the moral or correct thing to do,” Granberry told me today.

“I also consider it an oath issue. All my people who perform tasks that require signature, they’ve taken an oath, which is the same oath I take. To me, this opens ‘you take the oath to do this but you don’t have to do it.’ Anytime the legislature wants to create another loophole in your oath – ‘Oh, my religion says I can’t work Fridays.’ It’s a loophole and if someone doesn’t uphold their oath, they don’t need to be a deputy or an assistant. I’ve thought about stripping them of deputy or assistant status.”

Granberry supervises about 35 employees. Five work in the marriage department. He thinks most or all of them will perform marriage duties. But he worries about smaller and more conservative counties with skeletal staffs. In such places, same-sex couples could run into significant hassle.

The Mecklenburg deeds office handles 20 to 50 marriages per day, Granberry said. For a time, about a quarter of those were same-sex marriages. Now, it is about 8 percent, or a handful a day.

The N.C. Association of Registers of Deeds did not take an official position on the bill, and so did not lobby legislators to sustain McCrory’s veto. The group’s voice could have been valuable in swaying a couple of crucial votes. Granberry says he thinks most registers of deeds around the state opposed the bill, either on moral grounds or operational ones.

Granberry, a Democrat, is up for reelection next year. He points out that Amendment One, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, failed in Mecklenburg County.

The state association “just decided this was too hot for some people because politics is a part of the job and you can’t do political suicide if you want to keep your job, especially in a conservative place,” Granberry said. “So I understand why we don’t want to raise a big fuss and risk losing a lot of good registers of deeds in the next election.” -- Taylor Batten

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