A question to ask:

18 Oct

During my American Constitutional Law class tonight, we briefly clarified the principle/policy distinction; in legislative terms, the former is a modifier for something that would be applicable to the wider constitutional terrain (the entire country) while the latter is used to describe particularities, or matters that we don’t mind having varied from state to state. So an issue of principle would be something like a right to a fair trial while an issue of policy might be something like the age at which one can legally smoke cigarettes.

To give another example, I offered that same-sex marriage is an issue that is treated as a policy issue. My professor said, “Right, that’s something that currently isn’t given the elevated position of a principle matter” (paraphrased).

That got me thinking. Same-sex marriage is indeed something that is seen on both sides of the line as a state issue since marital determination as a whole lies within the realm of state sovereign power. We fight for it state by state. We talk about it state by state. But given what was discussed in my class, it feels as though policy issues connote lesser importance than principle issues. What do you guys think? Can the problem be approached, or at least discussed, with the lens of a principle issue? Is there no problem with the way we discuss it now?



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