Letters to the Editor

Laura M. Riddick: The right and legal thing to do

Regarding the Oct. 15 letter “ A bad precedent”: As Wake County’s elected register of deeds, I invite comments on the job we do in our office, but I’m disappointed that critics of my decision to keep our office open late to carry out a landmark federal court order legalizing same-gender marriages have declared angrily that we never would have done that for anyone else.

During my 18 years in office, we have worked after hours many times to serve our customers:

• When home mortgage interest rates plummeted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our staff worked late for several weeks to process an exceptionally heavy refinancing volume.

• On Dec. 21, 2012, our staff worked until 8:30 p.m. to process a surge of real estate transactions filed in advance of a major year-end change in federal tax law.

• Responding to the occasional personal emergencies of Wake County residents, I have reopened the office on nights and weekends myself to issue marriage licenses and birth certificates.

No one objected in those instances to our late hours or overtime pay. In providing those services, not once did I inquire about our customers’ ideological beliefs or declare my view on a political issue. We simply did our administrative jobs according to the law – just like on Oct. 10.

Earlier that day, I announced to the news media and the more than 100 residents waiting outside our office that I would close the office at 5:30 p.m. unless a court order came down before then.

The first court order was issued at 5:28 p.m., while we were still open. In keeping with my public promise, we stayed open to carry out the order.

We issued 53 marriage licenses that night, including two to opposite-gender couples. And we brought in more county revenue from the fees for licenses and certified copies than we spent on overtime pay.

Regardless of the expense, it was the right thing to do. Those customers had been camped out in the Justice Center for three days anticipating a historic court order. When the ruling came, it would have been unconscionably cruel to kick them out and tell them to come back Monday. They’re residents and taxpayers, too, and they deserved the same service we’ve consistently given other customers throughout my tenure.

Everything we do in our office flows from these principles: We assiduously follow the law. When same-gender couples came to our office May 8 to request marriage licenses, we followed the law and denied their requests respectfully and courteously. When the law changed suddenly Oct. 10, we issued marriage licenses respectfully and courteously.

We do everything we can to prepare for our tasks. We aim at all times to provide excellent customer service, treating all residents with equal respect, dignity and professionalism.

Laura M. Riddick

Wake County Register of Deeds, Raleigh

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the letter.