New Hanover County GOP searching for replacement Register of Deeds

A question on the application had some wondering if it was an effort to see if an appointee would try to block same-sex marriages.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 3:14 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 8:41 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County’s Register of Deeds Tammy Piver is retiring, and that means a new Registrar will need to be appointed by county commissioners, but there’s a caveat: under state law, it’s up to the local political party of the departing Registrar to give a recommendation to the county board.

“If the register of deeds was elected as the nominee of a political party, the board of county commissioners shall consult the county executive committee of that political party before filling the vacancy and shall appoint the person recommended by that committee, if the party makes a recommendation within 30 days of the occurrence of the vacancy,” according to the law.

That’s why the New Hanover County Republican Party is conducting a search to find a replacement for Piver, but the search has led to concerns from some people in the community due to a question on the application for consideration.

“State whether you agree with each article in the Platform. If not, provide details. Article 1: Family-Marriage between man and woman,” the questionnaire reads.

Same-sex marriage has been a topic of debate among Republicans and Democrats for years, not just in North Carolina but across the country. That question on the application had some wondering if it was an effort to see if an appointee would try to block same-sex marriages. In North Carolina, the register of deeds issues marriage licenses but does not perform marriage ceremonies.

Chairman of the New Hanover County GOP Will Knecht said unequivocally, the answer is no, and the party has not had any discussions to try to prevent marriages between anyone. Knecht also said the application isn’t just for the Register of Deeds but for all candidates and potential appointees as a way to know who is applying and to appoint the best person from their own party.

“The first reason that we have a very extensive application and interviewing processes, again, to get the best individual for all the citizens of New Hanover County,” Knecht said. “But at the same time, as we are working with candidates… We want to know where they stand so that we can coach them through the process. There is no litmus test we use for our candidates.”

The question about marriage is just one of several on the application, others include subjects like Second Amendment rights, property rights, election ID, and more.

There are other questions about religious affiliations, criminal history, bankruptcy, and qualifications to serve as the Register of Deeds. Nowhere on the application does it ask whether the applicant would consider banning same-sex marriage. Knecht reiterated the application is a standard form that the GOP has used in the past and not just for the Register of Deeds appointment.

“We have used an application for years to work with our potential candidates and candidates and in this, this disposition, an appointment to make sure we get very serious, qualified people raising their hands to fill these roles so this is not something we created for this position,” he said.

Regardless of the answer to potential replacements, same-sex marriage in North Carolina has been legal since 2014, and earlier this year a federal bill, The Respect for Marriage Act, codified the right across the country.

That law reads, in part, ``(a) In General.--No person acting under color of State law may deny-- `(1) full faith and credit to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State pertaining to a marriage between 2 individuals, on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals; or ``(2) a right or claim arising from such a marriage on the basis that such marriage would not be recognized under the law of that State on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.”

Although County Commissioners do have the right to appoint a new registrar if the party does not make a recommendation within 30 days, Knecht said he fully expects to have a recommendation by January.

“Our objective is, without question, to have the nomination before the county commissioners before the end of January, which is that 30 day window … We’re doing a lot of work. We’re spending a lot of time interviewing and reviewing all of these applications, again, to get the best candidate we possibly can to serve the citizens,” Knecht said.