On Monday, the Supreme Court handled a “narrow” 7-2 victory to a baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. “Narrow” does not refer to the margin of the vote, but the scope of the decision — which, as ThinkProgress detailed, was “a compromise that was designed to resolve this one case without doing much else.”
This use of “narrow” to refer to the scope of SCOTUS decisions is a basic legal concept. Nonetheless, both U.S. senators from Texas conflated meanings of the word in order to make bad faith attacks on the media, or exaggerate the importance of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision.
The latest example came on Tuesday morning, when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) — a lawyer who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the former Attorney General of Texas — attacked the media for using “narrow” to describe the Masterpiece decision.
“This is another example of why public distrust much of the press,” Cornyn tweeted. “Sad.”
Cornyn’s (mis)understanding of SCOTUS terminology puts him on par with Donald Trump Jr., who revealed a similar confusion while reacting to the Masterpiece decision on Monday.
I am reading about a 7 – 2 vote. Pretty sure that's not narrowly… At least 2 dem leaning justices must have agreed. https://t.co/vOjX0mOHPf
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 4, 2018
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — a lawyer who went to Harvard Law School, served as Texas Solicitor General, and is also on the Judiciary Committee — misleadingly suggested on Twitter that the Masterpiece decision wasn’t “narrow” because the vote tally was 7-2.
Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding a Colorado baker’s constitutional right to live according to his faith is a major victory for religious liberty. The fact that the decision was 7-2 (not a narrow 5-4) underscores that govt should NEVER discriminate against religious faith.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 4, 2018
On a local level, Doug Wardlow, the GOP-endorsed candidate for Minnesota attorney general, revealed the same confusion.
7-2. On what planet is that a narrow ruling?!
— Doug Wardlow (@doug_wardlow) June 4, 2018
Like Cornyn and Cruz, Wardlow is a lawyer. All three of them know better, but are playing dumb about the meaning of “narrow” in a cheap attempt to score political points.