Minnesota Representative John Kriesel
told lawmakers on Saturday considering a gay marriage ban that a near
death experience in Iraq changed his mind on the issue.
After roughly five hours of often
emotional debate, House
members voted 70 to 62 in favor of Republican Representative Steve
Gottwalt's amendment, which seeks to define marriage as a
heterosexual union in the Minnesota Constitution, sending it to
voters for their approval during next year's general election.
Minnesota currently bans such unions by law, but supporters say it
remains vulnerable to legal challenges without the amendment.
Four Republicans, including Kriesel,
joined all but two Democrats – Denise Dittrich and Lyle Koenen –
in voting against the measure. Republicans Tim Kelly, Rich Murray
and Steve Smith also said “no” to the amendment.
In urging lawmakers to reject the
measure, Kriesel said his experience in Iraq had affected how he
viewed many things in life, including gay and lesbian relationships.
“If this was 5, 6 years ago, I
probably would have voted 'yes.' 'Cause I didn't think about it. I
just thought about my family. I thought about what affects my wife
and kids and nothing else,” Kriesel said.
“Everything changed. I went to Iraq.
I was in an incident. I nearly died. I remember laying there,
looking down and seeing my legs mangled, and pretty much guaranteeing
that I was done. I was a done deal. I thought that was where my
life was going to end.”
“And I remember thinking of my wife.
And my kids. That's what crossed my mind. And that's what kept me
fighting; the love I have for them.”
“It woke me up. It changed me,”
Kriesel added. “Because of that, it's made me think about this
issue. And say, 'You know what, what would I do without my wife?'
She makes me happy. Life is hard. We're in a really tough time in
our history. Happiness is so, so hard to find for people. So they
find it, they find someone that makes them happy, and we want to take
that person away. We want to say, 'Oh no, you can be together, you
can love that person, but you can't marry them.' You can't marry
them. That's wrong.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of