The recent California Supreme Court decision, a narrow 4-3 ruling that holds that the California constitution cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation in marriage, comes at the best possible time for the country. There are very few immediate, encompassing barometers of our country’s progress, but gay marriage has been vaulted to that pedestal by partisans on both sides. In an election year, nothing says more about how far we have come, or how far we still have to go, than this contentious case of seven black robes, a wedding band and the Presidency of the United States.

If the ongoing fiasco in Iraq, worldwide economic downturn, health care overhaul and education reform aren’t enough reasons to get to the polls (they aren’t for most citizens), the vox populi will truly clamor to have their say in 2008. This is a watershed year for both California and the nation, as conservative groups have already begun to rally their otherwise morose troops to the ballot box on the charge of defending traditional values while railing against “judicial activism,” eager to repeat their success in 2004 when gay marriage provided the spark that nudged George Bush back into the White House.

Liberals similarly rattle the saber, saying the time has come to emerge from eight years of Bush Administration darkness. The huge swath of moderates in the country feel an unprecedented amount of attention lavished upon them, relishing the opportunity to square their own set of concerns between right and left.

I welcome this fight, as we will now see how much we have changed in four years, how many new voters have been added to the rolls and how they will vote. Democratic and Republican candidates will have to take a stand and be held accountable for that position.

Voters will once again be offered a stark contrast of American futures. Vote now or forever hold your peace.

Politics and policy conducted in vacuum invariably prove brittle and disastrous. Only through an evolving, engaging, even angry discourse can great steps forward be taken, and if it takes a single issue like gay marriage to force our citizenry to address all of the other critical challenges facing our country, so be it.