Malliotakis votes with Democratic colleagues to codify same-sex marriage, ‘regrets’ prior vote in state legislature

u.s. capitol building nicole malliotakis
All of Brooklyn’s congress members — including its only Republican representative, Nicole Malliotakis, voted to codify marriage equality into federal law on Tuesday.
Andrew von Huss/Wikimedia Commons

Nicole Malliotakis, Brooklyn’s only Republican congressmember, broke with her past stances and voted to codify protections for same-sex marriage along with her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday.

Malliotakis, who represents parts of southern Brooklyn and Staten Island, voted against New York’s Marriage Equality Act while serving in the state Assembly in 2011, and said in 2017 while campaigning for mayor that she regretted the vote.

nicole malliotakis at rally
South Brooklyn congressmember Nicole Malliotakis, pictured at a rally earlier this year, broke with her party and voted in favor of codifying marriage equality into federal law, years after she voted against New York State’s marriage equality bill as an Assemblymember. File photo by Paul Frangipane

“Every legislator has votes they regret, and to this day, that vote was one of the most difficult I’ve had to take,” Malliotakis said Tuesday in a statement. “Over the past decade, I have attended two weddings of couples who deserve equal recognition and protection under the law. Today, I will vote to codify same-sex marriage to ensure our fellow Americans continue to have the right to equal marriage and benefits under federal law.”

All six of Brooklyn’s representatives in the House of Representatives voted “Yea” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would change language in federal law that currently defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill also prohibits states that do not recognize same-sex marriage from discriminating against married couples from other states on the basis of race, sex and ethnicity.

u.s. representatives nydia velazquez and jerrold nadler voted to codify same-sex marriage
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, introduced the measure after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month. All of Nadler’s colleagues in Brooklyn, including U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, voted in favor of the measure. Wikimedia Commons/Rhododendrites

The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents large parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, in response to a concurring opinion issued by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when the court overturned Roe v. Wade last month. In his opinion, Thomas questioned not only the court’s prior opinion on Roe, but on the Supreme Court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage, prohibited criminal punishments for sodomy, and granted married couples the right to access contraception.

“And, although Justice Thomas did not mention the right to interracial marriage, that right relies on the same constitutional doctrines as the right to same-sex marriage and, therefore, it could be vulnerable to a legal challenge in the future as well,” Nadler said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “Even if we accept the Court’s assurance in Dobbs that its decision does not call other rights into question, Congress should provide additional reassurance that marriage equality is a matter of settled law. All married people who are building their lives together must know that that the government will respect and recognize their marriages—for all time.”

pride celebration in nicole malliotakis' district
Queer organization GayRidge hosted their first-ever pride event in Bay Ridge, inside Malliotakis’ district, earlier this year. The borough’s only Republican representative voted in favor of codifying protections for same-sex marriage into federal law on Tuesday. File photo by Arthur de Gaeta

U.S. representatives Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velázquez and Carolyn Maloney, all of whom also represent parts of Brooklyn, also voted in favor of the measure, which passed 267-157. All 220 Democrats voted “Yea,” while 47 Republicans, including Malliotakis, broke with their party and voted to pass the measure. Seven Republicans chose not to vote at all, and the 157 remaining Republicans voted no.

“I introduced the first domestic partnership legislation in New York State history when I served on the New York City Council in 1986,” Maloney said in a statement. “I am proud that today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed necessary legislation to enshrine marriage equality at the federal level. This action is long overdue, and I’m glad it is finally getting the momentum needed to get across the finish line. I call on the Senate to swiftly pass this legislation to protect marriage equality once and for all.”

The fate of the bill is less certain in the Senate, which is split 50-50 Democrats and Republicans with two Democratic senators — Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — who frequently split with their party, preventing legislation widely supported by their party from passing.