It's January and that always means silly season in Des Moines.
Like clockwork, a group of Iowa House Republicans is proposing amending the state Constitution to take away rights, rights that have been hard won state by state in the six years - that long already? since Varnum v. Brien.
Yes, it's the Marriage Is One Man One Woman (that curious wording a fundamentalist slap at the Mormons) Amendment.
But this year, there's a silver lining that's NOT a part of that dark ugly cloud: fewer and fewer Republicans are willing to lend their names to the effort, at least straight out of the box.
In 2011, the first session after the GOP took over House control, 56 of their 60 members signed on to the amendment as co-sponsors. This year, there are just 12.
The dirty dozen are disproportionately new members, from the class of 2012 (Greg Heartsill, Tedd Gassman, Sandy Salmon, Dean Fisher, and Larry Sheets) 2014 (Steve Holt, John Wills and Terry Baxter) or even 2015 (John Kooiker, who took over the Sioux county seat from the Legislature's premiere homophobe, the late Dwayne Alons). The only veterans on board are Clel Baudler, Ralph Watts, and Matt Windschitl.
Obviously there's been some turnover since 2011 with redistricting, defeats, retirements, and other offices. But a LOT of people who were on board right away in 2011 aren't signed on as sponsors yet this year - big names like Speaker Kraig Paulsen, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, Senator In Waiting Pat Grassley, and ambitious types like Hagenow and Klein and Baltimore.
Some of that is Iowa Clean Districting. In most states with gerrymandered districts, GOP legislators need only fear a primary challenge from the right, which pushes them to err on the side of crazy. But in Iowa, all but the reddest places are competitive, and just about everyone has to keep one eye on the general election.
But if that's so... where are people like Chuck Soderberg and Guy Vander Linden, from safe GOP seats?
Early sponsorship is just one indicator. Others may still sign on, and I expect almost all the House Republicans to in the end VOTE for actual passage, after which Mike Gronstal will kill it dead, dead, dead in the Senate.
But this is one indicator that, after four more years of marriage equality in Iowa without the Apocolypse or Rapture, the politics of this issue have gotten just a little more complex for Republicans. Four years ago, there was de facto party solidarity. Now, the people actively pushing the issue are a fringe. 12 sponsors is an improvement... but it's still 12 too many.