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 the page.)