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Married into the 'business'

By Ed Brock

It was a marriage that brought Norma Flores to this country from Mexico City in 1973.

Now marriage is her business.

Newlyweds-to-be come to Flores' office in the Clayton County Probate Court for their marriage license. Sitting in her snug basement office, looked over by Flores' collection of Kelly dolls, they take their first step toward lifetime commitment.

"You have an 84-year-old lady with a 64-year-old man. You get all kinds of races ... you get everybody," said 49-year-old Flores.

That original marriage to a Georgia man that provided the fiancé a visa with which Flores entered the United States ended, as did her second to a man she married after returning to Mexico. She came back to America and to Georgia because she was familiar with the area, and that's when she met her now fiancé, Dr. Aaron Young.

His picture sits on her desk next to a picture of her two daughters, 8-year-old Xochitl (that means "flower" in the Navajo dialect) and 12-year-old Laura. She also has two sons.

So Flores, who now lives in Rex knows a little about marriage, and she's learning more and more on the job she started as a part-time clerk in August.

"I love my job and I think it shows," Flores said.

She's not clairvoyant, Flores said, but sometimes she can tell if a couple isn't going to make it.

"Especially if they're bossing each other," Flores said.

For example, an Indian couple came in for a certificate on what Flores said was an arranged marriage.

"He kept answering everything for her," Flores said.

That's against the law since the bride must answer the questions on her own to prove she is not being coerced. When she told that to the man he was angry. Then the couple started arguing over whether the bride would be able to keep her own last name.

"It's just a power struggle with some couples," Flores said.

For other couples, marriage seems to be unnecessary. Earlier this week a middle-aged couple with children came in to report that they had just been married and presented a marriage license they had obtained from the county ... in 1995.

While several clerks in the marriage license office will take the necessary information to fill out the marriage license, Flores has recently been promoted to senior clerk, meaning she puts the licenses into the system.

A marriage license costs $30 but since 2003 Georgia residents have not been required to take a blood test before getting married.

The information required includes the names and addresses of the parents of the bride and groom for genealogical purposes. The busiest days for issuing marriage licenses include Valentine's Day and April Fools Day.

"Christmas is big, too," Flores said.

Flores' other duties include birth certificates and the less pleasant "orders to apprehend," otherwise known as commitment papers.

"Those are depressing," Flores said.

Flores has been an excellent employee, said Carla Candler, supervisor of vital records for the Probate Court.

"Her being bilingual helps out greatly here," Candler said.

And Flores said she's happy in her basement office with the small American flag waving over her head where she gives people their license to say "I do."

"And when you're happy, you stay," Flores said.

Everyday People is a regular feature of the News Daily that runs each Friday. If you know of someone who would make a good subject e-mail bpaslay@news-daily.com .