Sen. Mark Segebart
Sen. Mark Segebart
April 2, 2013

"It's one of the hills I would die on," Segebart said of his eagerness to fight same-sex marriage, now legal in Iowa.

What Segebart didn't tell us is that he's prepared to take political hostages down with him in the ever-brewing imbroglio.

And a hometown hostage at that. Des Moines Area Community College.

Segebart's upset that the Diversity Committee of Des Moines Area Community College is reportedly spending $1,000 to support the Iowa Governor's Conference on LGBTQ Youth in Altoona Wednesday. The event is aimed squarely at reducing bullying of gay, lesbian and transgender young Iowans. DMACC is only one of many sponsors.

Segebart and other Christian conservatives in Iowa say the event back-doors teaching of anti-biblical behavior, of the sins of homosexuality that place our kids on a speed-walking path to eternal citizenship in hell.

Television shows, movies and media coverage in general can make being gay seem like an awfully intriguing option, Segebart told me last May.

"We need to change the way media - and I'm talking here Hollywood mostly - demonstrates what society should be like, the wrong image of gay people being something more than the rest of us, a protected class, does only more damage to those younger people," Segebart said in an interview last May with this newspaper and Carroll Broadcasting. "It puts pressures on them that they do not need."

Segebart said being gay is an unnatural, manufactured attraction.

"The more you talk about it, the more it plants that seed in young, impressionable minds," Segebart said. "Once you start thinking about something, it's hard to get it out of your brain."

(Note to self: Leave the room if Mark Segebart is watching "Will and Grace," or worse, "Deliverance.")

Homosexuality is a top-tier issue for Segebart. He sees himself as a leader in the culture wars, and clearly nothing is more important to him than keeping any gay friendly talk out of earshot for Iowa kids.

So toward that end, Segebart late last week joined more than a dozen other legislators in signing a statement threatening to kill funding for DMACC - not just for the anti-bullying event but the full operations of the community college - if the school doesn't cancel its diversity committee's $1,000 contribution.

This isn't sitting well with economic-development leaders in Carroll who widely view DMACC as a primary engine of growth and progress, a go-to organization for attracting new businesses, training employees and keeping young people in the area.

A responsible state senator wouldn't play games with such a vital cog in Carroll's success, says James Knott of Carroll, a lifelong educator and current member of the statewide DMACC board of directors.

"To threaten the college with removal of funds is absolutely incorrect and almost abusive," Knott said.

Knott said he seriously wonders if Segebart understands his district - if he knows how central DMACC is to it.

"It upsets me even more that he's doing it to a group or college that he's been elected to represent," Knott said.

Former Lt. Gov. Art Neu, a member of the Carroll Area Development Corp., said Segebart's move raises concerns about his priorities - and whether Segebart has any loyalty for Carroll or understanding of what makes the city successful.

Neu, who worked as mayor of Carroll to recruit DMACC and has been instrumental in improving the school, wonders if Segebart, a Vail farmer and former Crawford County supervisor, would have taken the same approach were the Denison campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College involved.

"I think it's totally irresponsible," Neu said. "Would he have done this if it would affected the community college in Denison?"

It's a fair question for Segebart who unquestionably orients more toward Denison than Carroll.

In the big picture, Carroll is part of a network of campuses that makes up DMACC. It's not like Carroll provost Steve Schulz passed a hat among students here, or personally appealed to the Legislature, for the money to participate in the bullying conference. The Carroll campus has a limited and indirect role in the conference - if any at all for that matter.

What's most distressing is that Segebart is so obsessed with homosexuality - whether it's on his TV or being discussed in the context of how to stop kids from calling each other "fags" and otherwise bullying - that he's willing to sacrifice a foundational institution in Carroll to make an ideological point.

Carroll County helped elect Segebart. And he clearly represents the views of the region in his opposition to same-sex marriage and his discomfort with all things gay. Fight the fight, senator. We get it.

But don't die on the wrong hill. DMACC isn't Mark Segebart's enemy in the state's culture wars, and he knows it.

Whether he knows anything about Carroll, or is fit to represent us after this stunt, is an open question.