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Bucking N.C. Law: Official Plans To Sign Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Mark Chilton
Chilton for Register of Deeds

Orange County Register of Deeds is not typically a politically volatile position. But Mark Chilton made national headlines when he won the race to become the next register on Tuesday. That's because a primary focus of Chilton's campaign was that he would effectively break state laws banning gay marriage by signing marriage licenses presented by same-sex couples.

"All I'm saying is that based on every decision that I've read from the federal courts about same-sex marriage," said Chilton.  "I don't see how Amendment One -- the part of the North Carolina constitution that purports to prohibit same-sex marriages --  survives the analysis that's laid out in the United States v. Windsor or Romer v. Evans."

The Windsor case struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. The Romer case prevented discrimination on the basis of sexual preference (1996).

Anytime an elected official plans to enforce a drastic change in policy, there's concern about the individuals working for them. When asked what he would do if a staff member disagreed with his position and did not wish to break the law, Chilton said he would sign the contract himself.

"Every marriage license that's issued by a county Register of Deeds office is ultimately issued under the authority of the register him or herself," said Chilton. "So if there's somebody who doesn't feel comfortable doing it or has questions about the legal issues involved here, that's fine.  They don't have to sign anything.  I will sign it."

Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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