The only Supreme Court decision that really should turn on the wisdom of King Solomon

[If at any point, you know exactly where I’m going with this post, stop reading it. I have nothing to say beyond the totally obvious.]

Gay marriage is just one of those topics that induces people to say dumb things. The latest seems to be Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who quoted King Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes in response to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriage:

“[The Supreme Court was] not aware that the most wise man in history, Solomon, said there’s nothing new under the sun. And this isn’t new, and it’s been tried over and over. And it’s usually tried at the end of a great civilization.”

Weighty stuff, to be sure.

The remark has been roundly ridiculued around the internet, from John Oliver on the Daily Show to some random guy on some liberal blog and every degree of cleverness in between, for the obvious reason that Gohmert might have picked a better person to make his point than a king who had 700 wives and 300 concubines to his name.

To his credit, Gohmert seems to have realized his mistake, or maybe intended to make it all along, and clarified/walked back the remarks in his week-end remarks on the House floor:

Although Gohmert cited the wisdom of Solomon in criticizing the high court, the Texan found fault with the king of Israel’s lifestyle.

“You know, King Solomon, many — including me — believe was the wisest man who ever lived,” Gohmert said. “Of course, then he had too many wives, and that [will] always mess up anybody’s wisdom.”

Now, I’ve gone on record to argue against invoking the Biblical conception of marriage in the argument over gay rights — both on the part of opponents and especially by proponents — but if we accept the wisdom of invoking Solomon in reference to Supreme Court decisions, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Louie Gohmert simply picked the wrong case.

Take, for instance, another case decided last week to comparatively-minimal media attention, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, which pitted the rights of an adoptive couple against the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act:

One of the ways ICWA protects Indian families is by forbidding the involuntary termination of Indian parents’ parental rights. Under the statute, such terminations are forbidden in the absence of a heightened showing that serious harm is likely to result from the parent’s “continued custody” of the child. Brown based his argument on this statutory provision and won in South Carolina. After two years of living with the Capobiancos, Veronica was turned over to her biological father. But now, in a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court has said that the South Carolina courts were wrong.

I found this case particularly interesting both because the YLS Supreme Court clinic played some small role (unfortunately, on the losing side) and because Roberts, C.J., and Thomas, J. (who both sided with the majority) are themselves adoptive fathers.

But if Louie Gohmert taught us anything, it’s that we should be less interested in the wisdom of the current nine Justices than in that of a certain, historical Judge, and — my apologies for the exceedingly anti-climactic punchline — but I think we all know how King Solomon would have decided this case:

judgment of solomon


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